16th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. W. M. Nairn) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– Has the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior seen in thismorning’s Canberra Times a report that the wife of an Australian soldier who is missing in Malaya has been served by the Department of the Interior with a notice of eviction from the cottage that she is occupying at Westlake? Is this assertion correct? If not, will the honorable gentleman furnish a report giving the facts of the matter?
– I have not seen the newspaper report. I shall bring the matter to the notice of the Minister for the Interior, who will have inquiries made, and advise the honorable member of the result at the next sitting of the House.
– Will the Minister for Commerce consider the desirability of taking action to stabilize the pig industry, by eliminating the present differences in the ruling prices in Queensland, the southern States, and Western Australia?
– I assure the honorable member that every attention is being given to the stabilization of the pig industry. I have been in constant touch with representatives of the industry in the different States. A meeting of the joint council of the industry throughout Australia is to be held in Melbourne at an early date. I have asked that representatives of the executive shall meet rae in Canberra. Every phase of the industry will then be discussed, and it will be most sympathetically treated by the Government.
Transfer of Administrative Staff to Active Service - District Finance Office, Melbourne: Transfer of Clerks - Nurses in Northern Territory - Detention Camps.
– In view of the persistence of the statement that many officers stationed at Administrative Headquarters of the Army are fit for more active service, will the Minister for the Army appoint a person with secretarial and accountancy qualifications to investigate and report upon the present organization and staff.
– This matter has been constantly under review. For some time, a committee has been investigating complaints, and suitable action has been taken on its reports.
– Will the Prime Minister consult with the Minister for the Army regarding the action of the Army authorities in derating, for no justifiable reason, certain returned soldiers who are employed with the rank of sergeant or corporal in the office of the District Finance Officer in Melbourne, so that girls might be employed in their places, the soldiers being drafted into labour battalions as privates? Will the Prime Minister say whether this practice is to be discontinued, or whether it is to be continued with governmental approval?
– The honorable member’s question was rather long, but if he will place it on the notice-paper, I shall confer with the Minister for the Army regarding the matter. I assure him that if there has been injustice, we shall endeavour to remove it. It is the desire of the Government to treat members of the fighting services as fairly as possible.
– Will the Prime Minister arrange as a matter of government policy, for men who are working in the Finance Offices of the Army and whose age exempts them from active military service, to be discharged from the Army when they are replaced by women, so that they may work in labour gangs at award rates?
– Earlier, the Minister for the Army indicated that, for a considerable time, clerical and similar work carried out by men in the Army has been closely reviewed. That inquiry has applied to the Royal Australian Air Force also. As the result of these investigations, many men have been transferred to other duties, and their places have been filled either by women or by other nien who are unfit for more active duties. I am not able to announce any declaration of policy upon this matter, other than the general direction given to the reviewing committee to see that the best use shall be made, from the national stand-point, of the attributes of each person.
– That does not answer my question.
– I understood the honorable member to ask me to ensure that when men are replaced by women and their age exempts them from active military service, they shall be given pick-and-shovel work.
– We are doing our utmost to make the best use of the services of every individual in the community in as fair a manner as possible.
But the honorable gentleman will realize that a declaration of policy cannot be made by the Prime Minister in answer to a question without notice. For a considerable time, machinery to review the work that is performed by men in the Army has been functioning, and a large number of men have been relieved of the duties which they were performing.
Mr.Rosevear. - As these men are too old to engage in combat duties, will the the Prime Minister arrange for them to be discharged so that they may take work at award rates?
– Provided they can be replaced by competent persons?
Mr.Rosevear. - Yes
– I shall give consideration to the matter.
– Can the Minister for the Army say whether it is correct that Army nursing sisters who offered to serve overseas, but were sent to Darwin, where they have seen active service, no longer receive the benefit of the provision regarding deferred pay?
-I do not know, but I shall make inquiries.
– Has the Minister for the Army seen a press statement that prisoners in military detention camps are compelled to dress in three minutes and to shave in two minutes? Will he have a statement prepared for presentation to the House setting forth the regulations under which prison camps are conducted, and will honorable members be given an opportunity to peruse this statement when the House meets next Tuesday?
– I was not aware of the state of affairs alleged, but I shall give full consideration to the honorable member’s request.
Mr.RANKIN. - Will the Minister for Air accept the suggestion that is made by the Cohuna branch of theReturned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia in the following telegram that it has sent to me: -
Please suggest on behalf Cohuna branch soldiers league Federal Government concentrate on winning war and leave Falstein case to capable military authorities.
– The question does not call for a reply.
Director of Production - Production Committees.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether the production executive of Cabinet has considered following the example of the United States of America and Great Britain in regard to the appointment of a director of production, in order to co-ordinate the activities of the various departments that are engaged on war production, eliminate waste of man-power and materials, utilize idle machines, and institute a drive for greater production generally?
– The Production Executive was established in order to achieve the purposes which the honorable gentleman has in mind, and it is steadily advancing to its goal. The existing machinery is as good as any that could be devised.
– Is the Minister for Labour and National Service aware that the British Government is now officially sponsoring joint production committees in war industries similar to those advocated by the Minister for the Australian coal mines, and that a set of rules has been drawn up for the conduct of the committees? Will the Minister adopt a similar procedure in Australia with a view to ensuring harmony and increasing efficiency and production.
– I have seen a press report of what is being done in Great Britain. I am trying to obtain first-hand information so that I may compare the British scheme with what I had in mind. When this information comes to hand, I shall be able to inform the honorable member whether, in my opinion, a similar scheme should be adopted here.
– In view of the very large number of letters and telegrams that I am receiving, protesting against the lifting of the ban on Communism, will the Attorney-General state whether there is any truth in the rumour that the Government intends to remove the ban?
– This is entirely a matter of Government policy, for determination by the Cabinet. I have received probably as many telegrams as the honorable member, but all of them were received on the one day.
– I ask the Minister for the Army whether the section of the army horse transport stationed at Ballarat has been ordered to vacate its camp in order that Wirth’s Circus may be enabled to occupy the area for the conduct of its show?
– I am not in possession of information on that matter. I shall have investigations made immediately. If in any instance army needs conflict with the interests of the circus, I shall see that preference is given to the former.
– Has the attention of the Prime Minister been directed to difficulties that have arisen in connection with the transfer of workers from other states to Queensland by the Allied Works Council because different wage rates operate in that State? Will the right honorable gentleman consider the application to the wage system of the Commonwealth of the principle of uniformity, which the Government has so successfully introduced in other directions?
– The Government is aware that workers employed under awards in the State of New South Wales, and transferred by the Allied Works Council to similar work in Queensland, receive a lower wage under the Queensland law than had been paid to them under the New South Wales law. This problem exists between other States also. In some instances, the rate in Victoria is lower than that in New South Wales. In certain aspects, the Queensland rate is higher than that in New South Wales, whilst in other respects the opposite is the case. The Government has asked the Commonwealth Arbitration Court to examine the matter and provide a formula, in order that a fair and proper basis may be established. The view of the Government is that the matter is one rather for a judicial pronouncement than for ad hoc decision by Ministers.
– The Government could indicate the principle to be applied.
– That is being determined by the Court. In relation to the last portion of the question, I merely say that the honorable gentleman has indicated that in all probability he will support the Government’s constitutional proposals when they are placed before the House.
– I ask the Minister who is acting for the Minister for Munitions whether it has been the custom at Rutherford munitions canteen to cater for the requirements of those who are engaged otherwise than upon the production of munitions, particularly those employees of the Water Board who are performing essential work there, upon the completion of which they will be transferred to the munitions establishment? If so, will he state whether approximately 100 of these men have been notified that from next Monday they are to discontinue using the canteen for their meals, and that, if the decree be enforced, there is every likelihood of a hold-up occurring at the factory? Will the honorable gentleman instruct the factory management that the canteen must continue to provide meals for these men?
– I am to meet Mr. Jensen, Secretary of Munitions, when I return to Melbourne to-morrow. I shall request him to get in touch with the management of the Rutherford munitions establishment and ascertain the facts.
– Is the Minister for Commerce in a position to announce when a further dividend will be paid on the No. 2 and No. 4 wheat pools, and what the amount will be?
– The approval of the Commonwealth Bank is awaited for the payment of one penny and a fraction in connexion with the No. 2 pool. Authority is also awaited from the Australian Wheat Board for a further payment in connexion with the No. 4 pool. I hope that the final payments will be made shortly.
Contributions to Hospitals - Effect on Members of the Royal Australian Air Force.
– I have received from the Mildura Hospital Board a communication relating to the taxation proposals of the Government as they affect donations to hospitals. I quote from it the following: -
For some time we have received an annual donation of £400 from this company. Under the new proposal of the Government, if this company continues to donate £400 per annum they will be required to pay another £300 in tax - in other words, to give us a donation of £400 they will have to make an outlay of £700- and I understand that the company is likely to take a very serious view of the matter, and it is quite possible that our annual grant from this source will be seriously curtailed if the proposed legislation becomes operative.
I ask the Treasurer whether such a result is implicit in the taxation proposals of the Government as they affect donations to hospitals. If so, does he intend to allow such a condition to continue?
– Representations have been made to me in regard to the taxation proposals of the Government referred to by the honorable member. The amending legislation now before the House provides that any donations made last year will be treated on the basis that previously operated, and that those made in future will be dealt with according to a system of rebates, having regard to the rate of tax paid. Some of the points put to the honorable member are not quite correct. It is apparent, that if the statement be accurate, the Commonwealth Treasury has in effect been paying £300 of the £400 donated to the hospital; in other words, the whole of the contribution was not actually made by the company, because three-quarters of it was borne by the Treasury on account of the lower amount that it received in tax. The whole position will be examined.
– I desire to ask the Treasurer a question regarding the incidence of income tax upon allowances to members of the fighting forces. Has he considered the anomalies which arise from the fact that members of bombercrews stationed at Darwin and Horn Island are notofficially regarded as being absent from Australia, though they are in frequent contact with the enemy at points hundreds of miles distant from Australia? If the matter has been considered, what decision has been reached?
– The point has not previously been raised, but I shall have it examined.
– Can the Minister for Commerce give any information regarding the supply of machinery to factories in South Australia for the dehydration of eggs? Can he say what special conditions were laid down in respect of that State which do not apply to other States? Why is the State which produces most of the eggs for export the last to be fitted out with dehydration machinery?
-When I first came into office, I considered this matter of the drying of eggs for export, and everything was done to expedite the erection of factories in the various States. South Australia was the last of the States to apply for dehydration machinery, because it was considered that the position there in regard to eggs was more satisfactory than in the other States. Already in Victoria and New South Wales there were factories owned by private enterprise, but I insisted that all new factories should be under the direct control of the Department of Agriculture in the State concerned, or should be run co-operatively under the direction of the Egg Marketing Board, so as to ensure that the suppliers would be adequately protected. In this respect, South Australia is receiving favoured treatment. I am not aware that South Australia is being discriminated against in any respect as compared with other States, but I shall institute inquiries.
– In view of the recent affirmation by the Prime Minister of the principle of non-interference by the Government with the Arbitration Court, and his assertion that the Government did not propose to instruct the court regarding the fixing of a uniform wage for workers under the Allied Works Council, will he see that this principle is applied with regard to compulsory unionism and preference to unionists, and that matters affecting those issues shall be referred to the court, instead of Ministers bringing about compulsoryunionism by their own administrative acts ‘(
– The Government will not interfere in any way with the functions of the Arbitration Court.
– It did in Western Australia.
– The honorable member’s interjection is irrelevant, but I must answer him because otherwise ii. might convey a false impression. The Government pegged wages by regulation, and provided for automatic adjustments up or down according to the cost of living figures. We have given authority to the Premier of Western Australia to apply this provision, because the Arbitration Court in Western Australia decided that it could not take into account automatic adjustments in accordance with variations of the cost of living. As for the question of the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison), the Government will not interfere with the functions and powers of the Arbitration Court, but it will not lessen its own authority.
– As compulsory unionism is the law in Queensland, will the Prime Minister indicate whether it is the policy of the Government that men who are called up for compulsory service in the Civil Constructional Corps and are drafted to Queensland shall become unionists in accordance with the State law!
– To men employed in the Civil Constructional Corps, the Government has decided to apply the award of the State or district relating to the class of work that is being done. That includes the rate of pay, and all the conditions prescribed by the award. Awards in Queensland make it obligatory upon a person to become a member of a union.
– Jb that the law or the award ?
– I think that it is both, but it is most certainly the award. So far as the Commonwealth Government is concerned, it is the award which is the direction to the Allied Works Council, and I understand that the Australian Workers Union award in Queensland includes that provision.
– Will it be an offence if a man who is called up for service in the labour corps does not join a union ?
– The honorable member L« interrogating me. First, he asks me whether the Government will apply the law or the award, and I answered by saying that the Government will -apply the award, and that happens to be the law. It would not be a safe course for the Government to attempt systematically bo set aside State laws or awards when dealing with industry. Earlier, I indicated that some State awards fix different rates of pay for the same class of work. Men who are called up in New South Wales to undertake work in Queensland will, under the decision made by the Commonwealth Government, have to work for lower rates of pay than they would receive if the work were being done in their own State. The Government has asked the court to examine the position, and to provide a formula to meet the anomaly. It is easy to say that the Government should pay the rate that applies in New South Wales. Once that instruction were issued, I have no doubt that the highest rate in any particular award of any State would become the general rate over the whole field. The problem of labour, said Thomas Carlyle, is the supreme problem of the world, and it takes all the statesmanship of the world to cope with it. It is the most difficult and imponderable problem which comes to governments ; and <this Government has done better in handling the problem than has any of its predecessors.
– The Prime Minister’s reply conflicts with the assurance which the Attorney-General gave to me yesterday
– I rise to order. The honorable member for Lilley is basing a question upon an answer given to a previous question, and I submit that he is out of order in doing so.
– A further question is permissible provided it does not amount to a challenge or a cross-examination of the answer given by the Minister.
– The question that I put to the Prime Minister is a fair one.
Yesterday afternoon, the AttorneyGeneral gave to me a direct assurance, and the statement which the Prime Minister made this morning conflicts with it.
– I told the honorable member of the practice which has been adopted by the Allied Works Council.
– The Attorney-General assured me that no man would he compelled to join a union.
– Nothing of the sort.
– I received that definite assurance. I now ask the Prime Minister to inform me whether a man who is called up for compulsory service by the Allied Works Council will be given the same rights as a conscientious objector who is called up for military service?
-Previously, I was asked to explain the position regarding men who are drafted to other States by the Allied Works Council, and I said that the Government had taken steps to see that award rates were paid to them. I said that, regardless of what was in the award. The Government has not exercised any authority to suspend portions of any award. Any attempt to do so would create an impossible position. At all events, that general direction was given to the Allied Works Council. The honorable member for Lilley implied that some persons who are called up for compulsory service by the Allied Works Council object to joining a union.
– That is so.
– The Director of the Allied Works Council has informed the Government that in such cases, the objection is noted and no action is taken to compel the man to become a unionist.
– Even though the award prescribes that he must join a union ?
– The honorable gentleman wants me to say first, that I shall set aside the award.
– I do not.
– I shall not say that.
– All that I seek is an assurance that a man will not be forced to join a union.
– The honorable member received that assurance last night.
– The answer which the Prime Minister gave earlier to-day cut across that assurance.
– No. With very great respect, I say that the honorable gentleman has had no experience of dealing with the problems of labour.
– I have.
– The provisions of the award will operate. The honorable member has stated that the award compels every man to join a union. That is true. But the Director of Allied Works has a sense of proportion. If a person objects to becoming a member of the union, I imagine that the director as a man of common sense, will ask himself whether the individual has conscientious scruples about joining an industrial organization. He will examine the man’s record to ascertain whether that man would regard it as an affront to himself to have to associate with unionists. If the director considers that the man is sincere, he will not be compelled to join a union. That is the position. But the honorable member wishes me to give a licence to men to join a union when” it pays them to do so, and to be non-unionists if that is to their advantage.
– I do not.
– The award of Queensland will operate in the cases that I have cited. In fact, the awards of all States will operate in respect of work that is being carried out in them. If the award prescribes that the workers shall be members of a union, the Director of Allied Works will ascertain whether a man has a bona fide objection to becoming a member of an organization. If the director be satisfied that the man is, in other respects, a reasonable citizen, his objection will be respected.
– Can the Minister for the
Army say whether there is any truth in the report that, owing to the non-delivery of mails to enemy prisoners of war in Australia, Germany is threatening, as a reprisal, to hold up the delivery of mails to our prisoners in Germany and Italy?
– When I was informed of a press statement to that effect, I gave instructions that an immediate investigation should be made, and a report be submitted to me to-day. When it is received, I shall make it available to the honorable member.
– Can the Minister for Commerce state whether the Government has decided to fix the price of meat? If so, will the Minister consider the position of graziers who have committed themselves to the expenditure of thousands of pounds on the purchase of store cattle for fattening because, unless care be exercised, they will be faced with heavy financial loss?
– A Meat Commission is about to be appointed, and it will be representative of the interests to which the honorable member has referred. It will also have upon it a representative of the Prices Commission, and everything will be done to safeguard the genuine interests of graziers.
Lecture by Mr. Falstein, M.P.
– I ask you, Mr. Speaker, as one of the Joint Chairmen of the Empire Parliamentary Association, whether the practice of inviting distinguished members of Parliament to lecture to members of the association on their experiences, will be extended to the honorable member for Watson (Mr. Falstein) when he returns, so that we may be given first-hand information regarding conditions at Holdsworthy detention camp.
– Order !
– When will the Minister for Commerce be in a position to announce the decision of the Government regarding the report of the special committee which inquired into the dairying industry, and particularly into the application for permission to increase the price of butter?
– I hope to announce a decision not later than next week.
– I lay on the table the following paper : -
Tariff Board - Annual report for year 1941-42, together with summary of recommendations.
The document is accompanied by an annexure which summarizes the recommendations of the Tariff Board and sets out the action that has been taken in respect thereof. I do not propose to move that the paper be printed, because that will be done in the Senate.
– I direct the attention of the Minister for War Organization of Industry to a report in the Daily Mirror yesterday that a quick service manicure bar for men is Sydney’s latest beauty service. For 2s., men have their nails trimmed, cuticles softened with cream, and, if they wish, a soft gloss imparted with buffer and polish. What action does the Minister intend to take to prevent the waste of time and labour caused by this “ sissy “ practice of alleged men?
– The practice to which the honorable member has referred is generally carried out in hairdressing establishments. My department is examining the whole hairdressing trade with a view to rationalizing it.
– I move -
That the following orders of the day be discharged: -
No. 9 - Rural Industries - Joint Committee - First Progress Report - Resumption of debate on motion to print paper;
No. 10 - International Affairs - Ministerial Statement, 25th February, 1942 - Resumption of debate on motion to print paper;
No. 11 - Use of special funds for security purposes - Report of Royal CommissionResumption of debate on motion to print paper ;
No. 12 - Appointment of Mr. Casey as Minister of State of the United Kingdom - Resumption of debate on motion to print paper.
Honorable gentlemen will see that each of these subjects has been superseded in point of time by other matters. Their retention on the notice-paper could easily be an impediment to the debating of matters which honorable members might like to raise.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Notice of motion No. 4, in the name of Mr. Forde, for leave to bring in a bill relating to women’s services auxiliary to the Defence Force - by leave - withdrawn.
Motion (by Mr. Chifley) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act toamend the Superannuation Act 1922-1937, and for other purposes.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
– by leave - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
This bill provides for the extension of superannuation rights to three groups of persons in the service of the Commonwealth. They are long-term temporary employees, persons employed by certain semi-governmental bodies, and persons appointed for a term of years to statutory offices. It also includes several amendments of the principal act recommended by the Superannuation Board. The Government took the opportunity to refer all these matters for the consideration of the parliamentary committee which was appointed to report on the Repatriation Act, and the provisionsof the bill are based on that committee’s recommendations, with the exception of one item on which the committee’s decision was not unanimous.
I shall deal first with the grant of superannuation rights to temporary employees. In 1937, employees of the Repatriation Commission, War Service Homes Commission, Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, and the High Commissioner’s Office, London, were given security of tenure and brought under the Superannuation Act for the first time. It was considered that these employees were, in effect, holding permanent positions in the service of the Commonwealth. The Government of the day was not prepared at that stage to include other groups of employees, but the Minister in charge of the bill said in his secondreading speech, that if a case could be made out for similar treatment in respect of any other classes of persons, who were in substance permanent employees, sympathetic consideration would be given to it. This Government considers that the superannuation scheme should be extended to those persons who are for all practical purposes, although not in name, permanent employees of the Commonwealth. Investigation has disclosed that about 5,000 employees, who are classed as temporary, are employed full time, and are occupying positions, the duties of which are of a permanent character. Furthermore, their positions are necessary for the carrying on of the work of the departments. Whilst many of these persons have been employed for short periods only, others have had long continuous service. As evidence of the permanent nature of the work on which many temporary employees are engaged, it may be of interest to honorable members to know that there are approximately 2,600 employees who have been continuously employed by the Commonwealth for five years and upwards and whose services the departments require indefinitely. Of that number about 320 have had from 20 to 40 years’ service; more than 1,000 have had from ten to nineteen years’ service, and about 1,250 have, had from five to nine years’ service. There is no doubt, therefore, that these employees are occupying positions of a permanent character. It is now proposed in this bill that temporary employees shall be eligible for superannuation benefits subject to the following conditions : -
An employee who complies with the first four conditions, but in respect of whom the Chief Officer does not certify that his services will be retained indefinitely, will have the right of appeal to the Treasurer. The names of persons who are to be regarded as employees for superannuation purposes will be published in the Gazette by the Treasurer. If an employee cannot pass the doctor but complies with the other conditions, he will not be eligible to contribute for a pension, but will be entitled to contribute to what is called the provident, account. He will contribute 5 per cent, of his salary to which will be added 3 per cent, compound interest, and on retirement he will also be entitled to an equivalent amount from the Commonwealth. Where an employee is over 45 years of age and his fortnightly contribution for a pension of £52 per annum exceeds 5 per cent, of his salary, he may elect to contribute to the provident account instead of for a pension. In fixing the minimum period of service at five years, the present system’ of recruiting temporary employees was taken into consideration. These employees are taken from a list of applicants in the order of application. If a temporary employee were allowed to contribute for a pension after a shorter period of service than five years, the whole position in regard to the method of recruiting temporary staff would have to be reviewed. When it is remembered that permanent employees are required to serve a probationary period of from six months to twelve months before becoming contributors, it will be agreed that employees who have not qualified in the usual manner for permanency, cannot be regarded a; having earned the right to contribute for a pension until after a fairly lengthy period of service.
The second group of persons to whom superannuation benefits are being extended, comprises the full-time employees of semi-governmental authorities. These persons are not directly employed by the Commonwealth, but are employees of authorities created by the Commonwealth, and their employment is authorized by act or ordinance. The Government is aware that there are distinctions between the functions of the different authorities and it is therefore proposed that officers of the Australian Broadcasting Commission, the Canberra University College Council, and the Canberra Community Hospital Board who are employed on a permanent basis shall be given superannuation rights, and that other semigovernmental authorities shall have the option of deciding whether or not their employees shall be brought under the Superannuation Act. When a pension becomes payable to or in respect of any of these employees, the Commonwealth will pay its proportion of the benefit to the superannuation fund in the usual manner, and will be reimbursed periodically by the authorities concerned. As practically all the present employees have at some time during their service been required to submit themselves to a medical test, it is proposed that the usual medical examination on entry shall be waived in those cases where the authority concerned acceptsthe full liability for any invalidity or widow’s pension that may become payable to or in respect of its present employees within three years after the commencement of contributions. Persons who become employees in the future will be required to submit to the prescribed medical examination before becoming contributors. The names of persons who are to be deemed to be employees within the meaning of the Superannuation Act will be gazetted by the Minister.
The third group to whom it is proposed to extend superannuation, consists of persons who are or have been appointed for a term of years to statutory offices and who are required to devote all their time to the duties of their office. As I stated earlier, superannuation rights were granted in 1937 to employees of the Repatriation Commission and of other statutory authorities, but the members of the authorities themselves were not in- cluded. There is a further anomaly that whilst a few persons holding statutory offices are contributors to the superannuation fund by virtue of their status as permanent Commonwealth employees, their colleagues are excluded. The bill will also rectify this. The number of persons involved is about twenty, and the names will be gazetted by the Treasurer. Under the act, if the services of a person holding a statutory office be terminated after a period of less than ten years and before he has attained .the age for retirement, he will be entitled only to a refund of his contributions. If, however, he has served for ten years or longer, and has not attained the retiring age, the pension payable will represent the amount of his contributions plus an equal amount from the Commonwealth. If his services are terminated on account of invalidity or having reached the age for retirement, he will receive the full pension for which he contributed. Persons holding statutory offices, who are not required to give their whole time to their duties and who may engage in outside employment, will not become contributors.
The bill also provides for an amendment as the result of the actuarial investigation of the superannuation fund as at the 31st December, 1939. The actuaries’ report and recommendation, together with the Superannuation Board’s recommendations thereon, have already been tabled.
The actuaries report a deficiency in the fund of £309,000. In their valuation they assumed an interest rate of 3£ per cent., and they draw attention to the high rate of retirement upon invalidity pension, and the comparatively low rate of mortality amongst pensioners. In their report they state -
The original rates of contribution were calculated on the assumption that the fund would earn interest at the rate of 4 per cent, per annum. At the present time, it would not be reasonable to assume that so high a into will bc earned on. the investment of contributions received in respect of future units. Since the inception of the fund, there has been a general decrease in rates of mortality. As a result, not only do pensioners on the average live to draw pension over a longer period, but, also, larger proportions of contributors survive to become pensioners. Further, certain additional benefits not allowed under the original scheme have been granted. These further benefits comprised the abolition of the seven years’ probationary period, the refund of contributions upon the death of single men and widowers without children and the granting of double pensions to children who have lost both parents. The combined effect of these factors is that the original rates of contribution - which have remained unaltered throughout - are not sufficient to support the present scale of benefits. Every new unit effected at these rates entails a financial strain on the fund and so increases the deficiency.
The actuaries recommend that the position of the fund should be improved either by increasing the rates of contributions by employees in respect of units of pension taken out in the future, or by increasing the proportion of pensions payable by the Commonwealth, combined with a corresponding smaller increase of the employees’ contributions. The Superannuation Board and the Parliamentary Committee recommend that the rates of contribution for units of pension effected in the future should be those recommended by the actuaries without raising the Commonwealth’s proportion of pensions. Provision is included in the bill accordingly. Opportunity is also taken to effect a number of further amendments to the act recommended by the board and also by the parliamentary committee to overcome anomalies and to promote the smoother working of the scheme. These amendments have been discussed by the Superannuation Board with representatives of the Public Service Associations. Section 13 of the Principal Act provides that on appointment employees must contribute for units of pension according to their salary groups, with a minimum of two units (£52 per annum). Those on lower salaries may, however, elect to take additional units to make up a total of four units (£104 per annum). Frequently, employees who have failed to elect for the extra units wish to do so at a later date, but are ineligible because the time allowed has expired. It is now proposed in clause 6a that in future all employees under 30 years of age on appointment shall be required to contribute for a minimum of four units instead of two units as at present. This amendment will ensure that employees contribute for the first four units at the lowest possible rates. Clause 6c provides that, where an employee over 40 years of age becomes eligible to contribute for additional units, he shall be required to do so unless, within a period of six months, he elects to the contrary. This will ensure that all such employees shall contribute for units of pension as they become available and that no employee will miss the opportunity owing to lack of knowledge, as is often the case under the present provision. Where an employee elects not to contribute for the extra unit, any amount that has been deducted from his salary in respect thereof will be refunded to him. Under this clause also, an employee who has not contributed for additional units as they become available to him and who desires to pick them up at a later stage, will not be able to do so unless he satisfies the board’s requirements as to health. The prinicpal act provides that employees must decide within a period of six months from their appointment whether they will contribute for a pension on retirement at 60 years of age or at 65. It is now proposed that, subject to the necessary adjustment of contributions, an employee under 60 years of age may elect at any time to contribute for a pension on retirement at 60 years of age instead of at 65 years. Also an employee over 60 years of age who desires to retire before reaching 65, may pay the necessary lump sum to entitle him to the full pension on retirement at the earlier age. Under the invalidity provisions of the act an employee whose invalidity is due to “ his own fault “ is entitled only to a very small pension representing his own contributions. The words “his own fault” are considered to be too wide in their application. Clause 11 therefore provides that an employee shall, on retirement through invalidity, be entitled to a full pension unless the disability has been “ deliberately and wilfully caused for the purpose of obtaining a pension”, in which case only a refund of contributions will ‘be made. Under this clause also, should a retired female employee, who has been granted an invalidity pension, marry and subsequently become restored to health, her pension will be cancelled. By her marriage the pensioner renders herself ineligible for reappointment to the service in the event of her health being restored. This amendment will bring these pensions more into line with widows’ pensions which are cancelled on re-marriage. Under the principal act, if a widower dies and leaves children over 16 years of age, his estate receives a refund of his contributions. If, however, he leaves a child under 16 years of age, the only benefit payable is the child’s pension. The amount of pension payable may be, and in some cases is, very small, whilst the amount of contributions may have been considerable. This anomaly has caused a lot of friction. It is accordingly proposed in clause 13 that, where a contributor who is a widower dies and leaves children under 16 years of age, a sum equal to the difference between the amount required to pay the children’s pensions a;nd ‘the contributions paid by the employee shall be payable to his estate. The clause will be made retrospective. Honorable members are aware that if a Commonwealth public servant wishes to contest a parliamentary election, he must first resign from the service. If he is not elected and rejoins the service, he must contribute at a higher rate as a new employee. Clause 16 of the bill will preserve such an employee’s superannuation rights in the event of his not .being elected and returning to the service within a period of two months from the declaration of the poll. It will also preserve his rights from the date of his resignation to the date of his reappointment in the same manner as if he were on leave without pay. Under the present act, where a maximum-age pensioner or a widow pensioner is employed or reemployed by the Commonwealth, the Commonwealth’s proportion of the pension is cancelled during employment. This provision acts harshly in the case of a few widows who take temporary employment with the Commonwealth to augment their small pensions. Under clause 21, a widow pensioner will be allowed to be employed temporarily by the Commonwealth without her pension being affected. The clause will he made retrospective to cover a few cases of hardship. It will also permit a maximumage pensioner to be re-employed for 28 days in any year without his pension being reduced. Section 73 of the act provides that the board’s staff shall include an actuary. Clause 37 of the bill will delete this provision, which is not required. The Commonwealth Actuary, whose office is in Canberra, is the actuarial member of the Superannuation Board, and is in constant touch with actuarial matters affecting the fund. Clause 41 provides that, if a pension becomes payable as the result of a contributor’s participation in war service, the Superannuation Fund shall be charged only with that proportion of the pension which represents the contributions paid by the contributor up to the date of his retirement or death. The difference will be paid by the Commonwealth. This clause also protects the rights of an employee who is on active service by providing that, if he becomes eligible to contribute for additional units, he shall be covered in respect of such additional units, unless within a prescribed time he notifies the board that he does not wish to contribute for them. These are the principal amendments, and I commend the bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Fadden) adjourned.
Motion (by Mr. Chifley) proposed-
That the resumption of the debate be made an order of the day fur the next sitting.
– When is the debate to be resumed? This is a particularly involved and complicated measure. Usually, when superannuation, bills are introduced in the State parliaments, consideration of them occupies a period of several weeks. This is one of the most important sessions [ have attended, and there is so much vital business before the House that it will be difficult to give proper consideration to all of it. I hope that we shall “he given ample time to consider the bill.
– The honorable member will have’ until next week.
.- I, too, hope that there will he plenty of time for consideration of this bill. I have had a great deal of experience of municipal insurance funds, and I know that they give rise to all sorts of complications. This measure should be given thorough consideration, and every honorable member should have an opportunity to consider it fully before the debate is resumed.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Motion (by Mr. Chifley) agreed to -
That leave be give” to bring in a bill for an act to amend the Pay-roll Tax Assessment
Bill presented, and read a first time.
– by leave - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The pay-roll tax legislation is a comparatively recent addition to the statute law of the Commonwealth. It has been in operation for little more than one year. During that time, its operation has been closely watched with a view to determining whether any improvements are possible by way of simplifying the procedure to be followed by taxpayers, and also in the direction of relieving administrative problems. The law has, in general, operated very satisfactorily, and there is no intention to depart from the general principles upon which the pay-roll tax is based. It has been found possible, however, to devise means of alleviating difficulties encountered by certain taxpayers in the furnishing of their returns, and that is the principal purpose of this bill. As the law stands at present, every person who pays wages at a rate in excess of £20 a week is required to register as an employer for the purposes of the Pay-roll Tax Assessment Act, and to furnish monthly returns of wages paid. From the wages specified in each monthly return, an exemption calculated at the rate of £20 a week is deductible. Persons who are employers for a full year, and who pay less than £1,040 in wages during the year, are entitled at the end of the year to a refund or credit of any tax paid by them during the year, i.e., the tax in respect of months in which they paid wages at a rate in excess of £20 a week. Experience has shown that the calculation of the statutory exemption on a weekly basis does not operate evenly over the whole field of taxpayers. There is no difficulty in those cases where the monthly pay-roll regularly exceeds £20 a week. In those cases the deduction at the rate of £20 a week is regularly taken, and in the course of a year, the total exemption so allowed would be slightly over £1,040. The position is different, however, in those cases in which the pay-roll falls below an amount calculated at the rate of £20 a week in one or more months during the year. In such cases, the exemption for each month is limited to the amount of the wages paid, and the total general exemption obtained during the year is consequently less than £1,040. The amount of exemption so lost by employers with fluctuating pay-rolls, as compared with employers with regular pay-rolls, is substantial. For example, seasonal employers may pay out more than £1,040 in wages in the course of two or three months. Under the present law, the exemption obtained by such employers might fall as low as £200. Anomalies of this kind will be removed by clause 5 of the bill which is designed to ensure that in any case in which a person is in business throughout the year, and fails, because of fluctuating pay-roll, to obtain the benefit of the general exemption to the amount of £1,040 during the year, he shall get it at the end of the year, and a refund or rebate will be granted to him accordingly. If he is not in business for the full year, the amount of the exemption will be proportionately less. A further proposal concerning the general exemption is that contained in clause 3 of the bill, which is designed to simplify the work of preparing returns by fixing the amount of deduction to be claimed in respect of each monthly return. Under the present law, the monthly deduction is calculated at the rate of £20 a week. Obviously, it would be easier for both the taxpayer and the department if the same amount were deductible each month. The effect of the amendment proposed in this regard is to split the annual exemption of £1,040 into twelve equal parts and to allow it in the form of a deduction of £86 13s. 4d. in respect of each monthly return. Where the monthly deduction of £86 13s. 4d. is in excess of the wages paid in any month, the excess is to be carried forward as an extra deduction to be made from the wages of the next month. This system of carrying forward excess deductions will obviate adjustments at the end of the year, and will enable taxpayers to enjoy the full benefit of the exemption as early as possible.
The Government has also given close consideration to the difficulties encountered by some taxpayers in complying with the requirements of section 18 of the existing law, viz., to furnish a return for each month within seven days’ after the end of that month. In the vast majority of cases, these requirements place no undue burden upon taxpayers. It is not proposed, therefore, to relax the requirements of the law regarding lodgment of returns insofar as the majority of taxpayers are concerned. It is acknowledged, however, that there are certain kinds of employers to whom the ordinary procedure does not apply satisfactorily. These include persons who conduct their businesses in such remote districts that they actually cannot lodge a return within seven days. There are also seasonal employers who, in the off-season, pay no wages but, under the existing law, are, nevertheless, required to continue lodging returns for each month if their annual pay-roll exceeds £1,040. Furthermore, there are employers who barely come within the scope of the tax, and whose monthly liability is so small as to be barely worth paying or collecting. In these and other cases, the existing law causes unnecessary irritation to taxpayers, as well as embarrassment to the administration, in view of the economic waste involved in handling returns which involve little or no gain to the revenue. With a view to removing such causes oi complaint, it i3 proposed in clause 6 ot the bill to authorize the commissioner to deal with such cases on their merits. Where he is satisfied that it is unduly burdensome to require an employer to furnish returns by the due date specified in the law, he may allow further time tor lodgment of the returns. Where the commissioner is of opinion that the furnishing of monthly returns is unduly burdensome, he may accept returns based on some longer period. This relaxation of the ordinary requirements of the law will not be widely applied, but will be confined to individual cases in which the circumstances warrant such relief, and in which it is clear that the revenue will not suffer by means of the granting of the relief. I have outlined the principal features of the bill. There are three other matters of less importance. Clause 4 is designed to implement the decision given by the previous Government, and confirmed by the present Government, that the pay-roll tax shall not apply to payments made to employees who are on active service with the fighting forces. Pay-roll tax has not been collected on these payments and allowances, and clause 4 of the bill gives legal authority for the exemption.. The two remaining matters consist of a drafting amendment in clause 7, and a provision in clause 8 for the reference to the Land Tax Valuation Board of applications by taxpayers for relief from .payment of pay-roll tax on the ground of hardship. This amendment conforms with an amendment of the Income Tax Assessment Act which has already been placed before the House. It is designed to facilitate the handling of those relief applications. The bill imposes no new liabilities or obligations upon taxpayers. It is designed simply to remove inequity and undue burdens upon taxpayers. In these circumstances I am confident that it will meet with the unqualified approval of honorable members generally.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Fadden) adjourned.
In Committee of Supply: Consideration resumed from the 17 th September (vide page 491), on motion by Mr. Chifley -
That the first item in the Estimates under Division 1. - The Senate - namely, “ Salaries and allowances, £8,660 “, be agreed to.
– Never ‘before in our history has the Parliament had to discuss a budget while such dark war clouds hung over Australia. I shall briefly direct the attention of honorable members to the deterioration of the war situation since last September, particularly in Russia. Despite the heroic resistance of .the Soviet armies to the armoured might of Germany, backed by the whole industry of Europe, we have seen the Russians driven farther and farther back, until to-day they are being called upon to hold, at Stalingrad, one of the most important barriers to the severance of the arteries of the Russian nation. If the Germans are able to take Stalingrad, cross the Volga, and crash through to Astrachan on the Caspian Sea, the position of Russia, and in fact of the United Nations as a. whole, will become most difficult.
In the eastern theatre of war, since the attack of the Japanese on Pearl Harbour, we have seen their conquests spread far and wide. The achievements of Japan have been colossal. From the regions covered by the Great Bear to those of the Southern Cross, Japan has driven its enemies far from its own shores. It has broken through the barriers of resistance planned hy the allied commanders, and seized the Pacific outposts from which attacks might have been launched against it. In addition, Japan has conquered huge areas of country rich in natural resources of which Japan previously suffered a serious deficiency. Our defensive ring in the South-west Pacific, the Malayan barrier, the Netherlands East Indies and New Guinea, and the whole ABDA command have disappeared. The area we hold has shrunk to the western outposts of India and to the south-east portion of New Guinea, and even this is gravely threatened. In the Middle East the enemy stands poised at the entrance to the richest valley in the world, which it hopes to make a steppingstone to the great Irakian and Iranian oil-fields. Finally, in what we might call the decisive battle of sea transport, we have not been able to halt the enemy, though we have slowed down- his effort. But not even yet do I believe that we can claim that our losses of ships are less than our new building.
I have put before honorable members the blacker side of the picture. Turning to the other side, one of the most encouraging features is that sea-power, with ancillary air-power, is increasing very much in favour of the United Nations. The influence of seapower in this war will probably be as great as it has ever been in history. The nation which can control the seas, and put up an umbrella of air-power over its fleet, will, in the long run, secure victory for its armies. I believe that the United Nations will ultimately have this great advantage over the Axis powers. Another hopeful sign is that the industrial resources of the United States of America, which include the finest industrial plant in the world, are rapidly being geared higher and higher, so that more and more munitions and tools of war are being produced. This must lead, eventually, to the defeat of the Axis powers. In addition, the manpower of the United States of America is being mobilized for the purposes of fighting, and its armies are being rapidly recruited. “Within the last few days an announcement has appeared in the press to the effect that the American nation expected shortly to have about 4,500,000 men under arms. I believe that if we, as democracies, are to win the war, we must put forth every effort of which we are capable, and do it unitedly, as the Axis powers are doing. It is difficult not to admire the bravery, and fanaticism of our enemies, who fight to the death and do not question what they are fighting for. They consider that every nation against them that is an enemy must be destroyed. Contrasted with that outlook, the quibbling criticism of our country’s war effort that is indulged in by some honorable members makes our hearts sick and sore and causes us wonder whether, with our disunity, we shall ever be able to defeat our enemies and overthrow the dark forces of evil that are opposed to us. In my view it is the duty of the Government .to do everything in its power to unite the people so that they will fight as one man for the preservation of our institutions and the winning of the four freedoms set out in the Atlantic Charter.
The Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) has made a clarion call to the nation for austerity. He has said that every man, woman and child must be prepared, for the next few years, until the conquest of our enemies has been achieved, to live Spartan lives. What he said, in effect, was that we must dedicate ourselves wholly to the service of the nation. With those sentiments every body will agree. It has been claimed that this is an austerity budget, but when I read it through, and studied the excellent sentiments expressed in the section headed “Review and Outlook”, I wondered whether it was a sincerity budget.
As we are frequently reminded, the road to hell is paved with good intentions. It seems to me that this budget, too, is paved with good intentions, and unless we are careful, it will lead us along the road to hell. In his “ Review and Outlook “ the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) outlined certain financial requirements. He told us what we should do and what we should not do. But I regret to say that I can find nothing in the budget to provide for the implementation of the honorable gentleman’s commendable sentiments. The section on that point might have been written by the most orthodox economist in the world. In the absence of any proposals for giving effect to the views expressed therein, we may regard them as words, words, and more words, and mere pious sentiments. Tie Treasurer indicated that the problem that would have to be faced was to find ways and means to close a gap of £300,000,000. He said-
A3 we add more and more men and women to the large numbers engaged in war work, we subtract them from the already reduced numbers engaged in producing goods for civilian consumption. But if our financial and economic system is to be kept in balance we must transfer the spending of incomes from civil consumption to war expenditure in approximately the same proportion as we have transferred man-power from pursuits of peace to pursuits of war.
Owing to the great increase in employment and economic activity, incomes have expanded and spending power in the hands of the people is now at a rate greatly in excess of the flow of goods and services that the nation can spare for its civil needs.
I believe that every body will agree with that statement. The honorable gentleman proceeded -
The Government cannot allow this excess spending power to compete against the nation for the additional man-power and material? that are vital to our defence, or to bid up for the limited goods that are available for civil use, or to operate in “ black “ markets and so menace price stability. The Government is determined on this and will take such measures as may be necessary to impose its will.
But whatever direct controls are established for this purpose, the excess spending power must be transferred to the Government to pay the fighting forces and for the labour and materials used in producing munitions and war supplies. This is the financial price which must be paid. Whilst relying to a large extent on the voluntary efforts of the people the Government is resolved that its payment will not be evaded. Effort and sacrifice of comfort by civil population is the least part of the price. Many in the forces, many of the nation’s sons, pay the supreme price of all. No financial price compares with that.
Unfortunately no effective proposals are made to subordinate the desires of individuals to the needs of the nation, and that moist be done if we are to win through. There are two classes of goods upon which purchasing power may be expended - capital goods and consumption goods. The play of purchasing power upon capital goods has been very largely curtailed by the restrictions imposed by this Government and previous governments. There is not free play to-day for investment in capital goods. On the other hand, the play of purchasing power in connexion with consumption goods has raged practically unrestricted. That purchasing power cannot be restrained or curtailed merely by the raising of prices. I direct attention to a paragraph in regard to beer that appeared in the Sunday Sun of the 6th September last. It was headed : “City’s driest Saturday; beer supply ran out “, and read - “ The Federal Government is perturbed over the amount of money spent on drink, but raising the price won’t frighten people away from bars”, said a prominent hotelkeeper. “The public has money to spend on beer. If people want a drink, they’ll pay the extra pence “.
The Treasurer has stated that consume purchasing power must be immobilized and diverted to government use. There are several ways in which this consumer purchasing power may be restricted. In this regard, there is an excellent statement in the work entitled Australia Foots the Bill, published last year. It reads -
Money itself cannot fight- creating credit does not create soldiers, workmen, sloops or bullets; it merely increases the Government’s power to command resources in general which already exist. If the types of resources that the Government wants are not available, then what is the use of creating new credit? If they are available, then their control must be transferred to the Government from private individuals: that is, the money which gives this control must be transferred either by borrowing it, taxing it away, or destroying its value by inflation. But if, in order to gain this wider command over resources, the Government chooses inflationary methods, repercussions on prices will lead to injustices and anomalies and in all likelihood more will be lost, than gained on balance.
The Treasurer’s problem is to freeze this vast amount of consumer purchasing power that is in the community to-day. The honorable gentleman has pointed out. that twelve months a!ZO, 25 per cent, of the total man-power was engaged in the war effort, and that to-day 50 per cent. of it is so engaged. H.e has also stated that before the war there were 540.000 factory workers, mostly supplying civilian needs, whilst to-day there are 700,000, with only 200,000 of these in the factories, that are providing for the needs of the civilian portion of the community. In addition, there has been an enormous diminution of imports into this country, and the flow of them has been reduced to a mere trickle. This means that the available pool of consumption goods for ‘the needs of the civil community not only has shrunk enormously in the last twelve months, but is still steadily shrinking. The result has been that, against a diminishing pool of consumption goods, there has been a rapidly increasing purchasing power in the most freely spending portion of the community. In 1940-41, the income distribution of the Commonwealth -was ?aid to be £800,000,000. The estimate for 1942-43 is £930,000,000. This means that in the hands of the income-earners of the Commonwealth, for expenditure by them, there should he approximately £930,000,000. That money is being expended upon a diminishing pool of goods. In addition, there is a considerable volume of purchasing power to which neither the Treasurer nor any other member of this chamber has so far referred. This is the large volume of money that is being spent by allied troops in Australia, particularly by our American allies. I calculate that this is approximately from £15,000,000 to £20.000,000. That money is not provided by the Australian Government, and that Government cannot exercise any control whatever over the expending of it. Citizens of the United States of America who are members of the American forces or administrative staffs are not liable to taxation in Australia. Consequently, the available spending power in the Australian community to-day is between £945,000,000 and £950,000^000. This has to be damped down and frozen in some way if Australia is not steadily to steer itself into a position fraught with pending disaster. I direct attention to the distribution of the £930,000,000 to which I have referred. The first point that one should note is that the income-earners have increased from 2.S40.000 in 1938-39 to 3,200,000 in 1942-43. an increase of 360,000 persons. During the same period, the aggregate income has increased by £185,000,000 and the taxation by £93,500,000. The number of factory workers producing for civilian needs nas fallen by 540,000, whilst taxable income increased by £105,000,000 between 1939-40 and 1941-412. The distribution of that increase is said to have been as follows: In the under £400 group, £70,000,000, of the increase is absorbed. In the £400 to £1,000 group, the amount was £25,000,000, and in the group over £1,000 it was £10,000,000. The above figures show - 1, that there has been a large increase of income-earners ; 2, that taxation has not kept, pace with the rate of increase of incomes; 3, that the civilian goods pool level has fallen and is steadily falling; 4, that there has been an increase of income which has been most largely distributed in the lower income groups; and 5, that there is the added problem which has been brought about by the vast amount of purchasing power loosed by the allied forces in Australia. Whereas in the days of the depression there was a state of poverty amid plenty - poverty of purchasing power in conjunction with a plenitude of goods and considerable unemployment - to-day there is poverty of goods with no unemployment and with plenty of purchasing power - the exact converse of the position that existed in the depression period. The purchasing power of the community to-day must be damped down and immobilized until victory has been achieved by the allied nations and men are returning to civil avocations from the war and from munitions production, converting a war-time into a peace-time economy. When that occurs, the greatest volume of purchasing power must be placed in the hands of the people, in order that the factories may resume the production of the civil goods that the community may need. Some persons may say that, rationing of supplies is a complete method of controlling purchasing power and ensuring the equitable distribution of all goods among the community. It cannot be either a complete or an incomplete method. One of the difficulties in connexion with rationing is that, if it be extended to cover a tremendous range of goods, the result is complicated administration and continual demands on man-power, which in existing circumstances could not be met. It is suitable for application only to goods of cer tain classes or kinds. Some goods do not lend themselves to rationing, and could not be controlled by its means. If the presentenormous purchasing power be permitted to rage as a turbulent stream through the economic structure of Australia, we shall have black markets, the forging of ration tickets, and, generally speaking, an enormous degree of social discontent and loss of control of the price structure. The Treasurer has said that the gap of £300,000,000 is to be bridged by means of loans, &c. That, expression “&c”, covers a multitude of sins, and no one knows what goes on beneath it. Last year, net borrowings by all methods totalled £120,290,000.’ Discussing certain aspects of those borrowings, the Treasurer said -
Sales of war savings certificates fell below those of the previous year. Sales of national savings bonds were somewhat disappointing.
The honorable gentleman did not say how much central bank credit had been provided in order to fill the loans. An examination of the statistics for the last twelve months reveals that government and other securities, including treasury - bills held by the Commonwealth Bank, rose by £103,200.000. and the note issue by £37,400,000, between August, 1941, and August, 1942. 1 am not suggesting that because the note issue rose there would necessarily be inflation. But I say to honorable members opposite that when practically the whole of the increased note issue is in the hands of the public instead of in the hands of the banks, the community at large is putting it not in a national safe deposit but, figuratively speaking, in a jampot under a cherry tree in the backyard. That is “ hot “ money, which is ready to flow from the jam-pot into the community, there to be used the moment the public believes that the monetary system is getting out of control ; because people then become anxious to transform it from notes - of which they are distrustful - into goods. That has been the history of all inflation. When a baby has a rising temperature and spots on its face, the parent says to it, “ You are in for the measles “.
– Does not the same principle apply to war savings certificates?
– It does. But in that respect it can he arrested. You cannot go into every backyard and seize the jam-pots. I maintain that the figures I have given disclose that at the present time considerable inflation is taking place in the community. The Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) said that he estimated that it would take £300,000,000 to bridge the gap - £179,710,000 more than was obtained last year. I say with all respect to the Treasurer and the Government that it is extremely improbable that they will be able to obtain this money by voluntary loans. The Treasurer has himself expressed disappointment regarding the amount of money raised by war savings certificates. The reason is that, in the lower income groups, the practice of saving has never existed. I do not say that in disparagement of those who belong to the lower income groups; probably they never had money to save. Now, however, the position is different. Huge amounts of money are being put into the pockets of people who, up to now, had very little. Only the other day I was talking to a munitions worker, a sub-contractor under the cost-plus system, which the Government, previous to assuming office, condemned so roundly but which it still retains - and I learned from him that he is making £3,500 a year. And he is a fitter and turner! These people, who are receiving higher incomes than they ever had before, will not invest in loans because, as I have said, they are unaccustomed to saving. At the present time, central bank credit is increasing very rapidly. Treasury-bills and government securities held by the Commonwealth Bank increased by £22,000,000 between the 1st May and the 17th August, and at the same time the note issue - which is “ hot money “ - increased by £30,000,000. I maintain that when such conditions are evident - a shortage of consumer goods, full employment, rising prices, and the note issue disappearing into the jam-pot, while treasurybills and government securities in the central bank are mounting rapidly - it means only one thing, and that is inflation pure and simple. If inflation gets out of control it will paralyse our war effort. It will cause discontent among the community, it will be an incipient cause of strikes, and it will be diabolically unjust to the primary producers, the prices of whose products have been pegged. They will find’ that their products will buy only 50 per cent, as much as they did twelve months ago. Therefore, the Government should do everything to remove inflationary conditions as soon as possible, and it should also reduce consumer purchasing power. The Treasurer said that, while relying largely upon the voluntary efforts of the people, the Government was resolved that its demands should not be evaded. The Government appears unwilling to adopt compulsory measures, but the Treasurer’s statement suggests that the Government is prepared,, if necessary, to adopt compulsion in order to get the money it wants. Our enemies move fast. If we were at peace, there might be time to put our house in order, but we are at war with an enemy who has shown his mettle in the Malayan jungles, and in the various theatres of war in the Pacific Ocean. He fights fast and he fights hard. If our war effort wilts, if we are not prepared to do what is necessary, our friends and allies overseas may he no longer willing to give us the aid of which we stand so much in need. In Melbourne last Easter, when delay was being experienced in the “ turnround “ of ships, I heard remarks from some of our allies which, if repeated in this House, would be severely frowned upon by you, Mr. Speaker. The only way to prevent inflation is to increase the amount of money raised by loans and taxation. The Government should compel people to contribute in proportion to their incomes. It has been argued that if people in the lower income groups were taxed it would tend to reduce output. There may be some truth in that. People might ask what was the use of working so hard if all that they earned was to be taken away from them in taxes. We know what many of the workers went through during the depression. I was a member of a committee which expended £600,000 on relief measures in New South Wales, and I saw something of the sufferings of the people at that time. Therefore, I believe it would be fair for the Government to say to the people of Australia, rich and poor alike, that, for the present, they must accept some of their income in the form of deferred pay. There is a precedent for this in the system of deferred pay to soldiers. Last year, the Government came into power after the defeat of the Fadden Government on the issue of compulsory loans. “Whether we call these enforced contributions compulsory Joans, or post-war credits, or deferred payments, is a matter of little consequence; the fact is that they are necessary, and the Government should be wise enough to admit that it made a mistake twelve months ago. Only the night bef ore last we listened to an exposition by 50 per cent, of the Government’s majority on the subject of changing opinions. The honorable member for Henty (Mir. Coles) explained how he, like the chameleon, was able to change his opinions overnight. If 50 per cent, of the Government’s majority is able to change its opinion so readily, surely the Government can admit the need to change its policy in the face of a national crisis.
If it is just to withhold a part of the soldier’s pay, can it be unjust to ask the civil population to make a similar sacrifice? The pay of the single soldier is 45s. 6d. a week, added to which is 14s. a week deferred pay, making a total of 59s. 6d. a week. In addition, he has his keep, which would add at least another £1 a week to his pay, making a grand total of 79s. 6d. a week. From this total 14s. a week, or 17 per cent., is withheld from the man who goes out to defend his country, and, if necessary, to lay down his life in its defence. The estimated national income of Australians for the year 1942-43 was £930,000,000, as against £800,000,000 for the year 1940-41, when 88 per cent, of the total income went to groups in receipt of less than £1,000 a year. If the distribution were the same for this year - though probably, for the reasons I have stated, the proportion received by the lower income groups would be higher- a total of £837,000,000 would be distributed among groups in receipt of incomes of less than £1,000 a year. If 17 per cent, of that amount were withheld in the form of deferred pay, as the soldiers’ pay is deferred, it would bring to the Treasury £142,290,000, and this amount would go a long way towards relieving the Treasurer’s budgetary headaches. If 10 per cent, were withdrawn, it would yield £83,700,000, and if 5 per cent, were withdrawn the yield would be £41,850,000. Five per cent, represents ls. in the £1, which is the amount of the flat rate tax levied on every wage-earner by the Lang Government in New South Wales during the depression. It is the same as the NewZealand Government now takes from every member of the community for national security purposes.
– In New Zealand, the total levy on incomes is 10 per cent.
– Yes, and I suggest that the levy here should be 10 per cent.., also. Even if the levy were fixed at 5 per cent., it would be 12 per cent, less than is taken from the pay of the single soldier. I believe, however, that a graduated levy, equal to an all-round levy of 10 per cent, should be made, and this would yield a total of £93,000,000. Last year, voluntary savings yielded a net amount of £120,290,000. On the present national income of £930,000,000, the same rate of savings will produce an amount of £130,200,000. On Wednesday evening, the Prime Minister said that he thought that the amount which would be subscribed by voluntary loans would be approximately £200,000,000. The right honorable gentleman probably overestimated the figure and in the same way £130,200,000 is probably an underestimate of what will be collected from the community, owing to the closeness of the Japanese menace and the growing realization on the part of the people that unless they give everything to the war effort, they may lose their homes, country, nationality and even their lives. I suggest, therefore, that the amount of voluntary loans might be put at £160,000,000. Loans amounting to £160,000,000, together with £93,000,000 deferred from the distributable income, will yield £253,000,000. [Extension of time granted.]
– Does not the honorable member consider that the deferment would considerably reduce the amount to be raised voluntarily?
– It might; hut the plan is worth trying. The problem of the Government is to damp down this enormous amount of consumer purchasing power and to stop the competition of the civil population for goods now produced by man-power and resources that are needed to manufacture war materials.
If my plan were adopted, the deficit would be £47,000,000 ; but that gap might not be so difficult to bridge as one might imagine at first glance. Departmental officers should make a close examination of all State government activities. Although the States have resented interference with their sovereign rights, I contend that the right of the people to demand that everything shall be done to save the Commonwealth from destruction is of infinitely greater importance than the rights of the States. I shall help the Commonwealth Government to the best of my ability to put the States in their place, make them curtail their spending, and bow to the will of the National Parliament and the Rational Government in this hour of crisis. Any surpluses that may be discovered as the result of an inspection of State activities should be made available to the Commonwealth Government. The States, which are competitors for man-power and resources, represent consumer purchasing power, and are just as serious a menace to the war effort as is the massed purchasing power of the general community.
Another field of revenue which the Commonwealth should tap is the State transport systems. At present, the States are receiving unprecedented revenues from an increased volume of traffic due almost entirely to the enormous quantity of war materials that the Commonwealth Government is despatching over their systems.
– And paying for.
– That is true. Is it not fair that the money should be diverted to the body responsible for the defence of the country? Again, the Commonwealth must assert its authority and interfere with the sovereign rights of the States. The railway systems still carry large number of people who travel purely for pleasure. The Commonwealth must check that. If people wish to travel for pleasure, they should pay increased fares, and the money should be diverted to Commonwealth revenue. Even though a most bloody and bitter war is now raging at our front door, the
States, whose sovereign rights must not be interfered with in any way, preserve competitive freight rates on their borders for the purpose of diverting goods hundreds of miles from their natural outlets so that they will travel over one State system and not assist the revenues of an adjoining State. The time has come for the Commonwealth to show the States plainly where they “get off”, and take over the State transport systems for the duration of the war. Why should the Commonwealth fatten up the State railway systems with money that is badly needed for the war effort?
Since State governments were hit in the solar plexus by the decision of the High Court on the validity of the uniform income tax legislation, they have adopted the practice of entering into new fields of taxation. For example, the Government of New South Wales recently announced its intention to impose a steeply graduated super land tax on estates, the unimproved capital value of which exceeded £5,000. The principle may be right or wrong. I am not concerned with the justification or otherwise of the proposal. But I point out that it will be, not the owners of the large estates, but the Commonwealth Government, which will pay the super tax. This is a neat piece of bushranging. When a man has frustrated one attack by the bushranger, the assailant approaches from another direction, and holds the pistol at his head. The Commonwealth should, therefore, prevent the States from entering new fields of taxation. If my proposal be adopted, the Government will almost completely close the gap of £47,000,000 between expenditure and revenue during the current financial year. I warn the Government that failure on its part to act will jeopardize the security of the nation, if it be fair to compel men to serve in the Army and the labour corps, it is also fair to compel people to use their incomes in the interests of the nation as a whole. Whether the Government is bending to political pressure from the right o.r the left, it is entirely wrong. If the Government is so embarrassed by having to submit to pressure groups, the best course for it to adopt is that which it asks of the people, namely, to achieve unity. Let us have unity in Parliament, and one Australian government to fight this war against one Japanese government, one German government, and one Italian government, because in the Axis countries there is no disunity. Only by united efforts can we smash this menace to Christianity and everything else that we hold so dear.
It was with great pleasure that I read in the budget speech the proposal to establish a mortgage bank. As a similar proposal was contained in the Fadden budget, all parties are agreed as to the necessity for creating this institution. If we cannot be united in our Parliament, we can be united regarding the establishment of a mortgage bank. It is interesting to recall that this year is the 50th anniversary of a speech by the Austrian Consul-General before the Victorian ‘Chamber of Commerce that led to the establishment in Victoria of the first mortgage bank in Australia, namely, the Credit Foncier branch of the State Savings Bank. I realize the difficulty in war-time of fully developing a mortgage hank. The Government may not he able to provide an adequate amount of capital for it, or there may be other obstacles, but I urge the Treasurer not to spoil the child at its birth. Its charter should be as wide as possible, so that the bank will in years to come play an important part in assisting primary producers. The bank should also be permitted to lend money, not only on broad acres, but also to home-builders, particularly those in rural Australia. In many country towns and small villages, housing conditions are just as bad as in the, slums of the large cities. The rural people who live under such conditions are the forgotten people of Australia. The mortgage hank should also be permitted to make loans to co-operative farming plants, irrigation trusts and similar organizations.
The possibility of making finance available to persons who wish to borrow small amounts should also be investigated. Some years ago, the Bank of Australasia established a department for small borrowers, and I understand that it has functioned to the mutual advantage of the institution and customers. How ever, this branch is conducted in a very small way. The Government should ascertain whether it is possible for the other tradings banks and the Commonwealth Bank to engage in this business. Whilst this may be a post-war matter, I hope that it will not ,be forgotten. The Royal Commission on the Banking and Monetary System found that small businesses experienced considerable difficulty in raising capital, and I consider that they should be assisted wherever possible.
Another important matter is the necessity to establish at the present time a Ministry of Primary Production and Food.
– Does not the Minister for Commerce control that part of the national economy?
– The importance of primary production requires no emphasis, but at present there is divided control in respect of primary production and the raw farm products. Apart from the Department of Commerce, the Department of Supply and Development and the “ Oap-and-Gown “ Department of War Organization of Industry are concerned in it.
– That is a good deception of it.
– These three departments control primary production and what is every body’s business soon becomes nobody’s business. The result is the extraordinary muddling that is taking place in the dairying industry, because dairy production is steadily declining and it is doubtful whether Australia will he able to discharge its obligations to Great Britain. A man who was growing beans for canning hypothecated his crop in return for an advance, but the Department of Supply and Development issued a “freezing” order which affected the person who offered the advance. The grower is now left high and dry, and the Government will not get the beans. Whilst no provision has been made for granting advances to primary producers, every assistance is extended to enterprises which desire to mine copper, or search for new lodes. To illustrate this discrimination, I quote the following extract from the
Sydney Morning Herald of the 8th September : -
Government assistance is being given the New Occidental Gold Mines No Liability which will explore shafts of copper mines formerly closed in the Cobar district. Mr. J. J. Clark, M.P., and Mr. J. McNeil, secretary of the Australian Workers Union, have been appointed Government nominees on the board of the company. [Further extension of time granted.]
Sitting suspended from 12.J/7 to 2.15 p.m.
– At present there is in the Ministry some hydraheaded monster called the Production Executive which apparently has something to do with food and other primary production in Australia. Governmental control of primary prodution is divided between the Minister for Commerce (Mr. Scully) and the Minister for Supply and Development (Mr. Beasley) and the Minister for War Organization of Industry (Mr. Dedman).
– And the Minister for Transport (Mr. George Lawson).
– He probably comes into it, but he has not shown himself so plainly as the others have. With unity of control we should not have seen the bungling that has taken place with regard to the dairying industry. The Government should seriously consider this matter, appoint some strong man as Minister for Primary Production and Food, to pull the threads together and reave them into one in the interests of primary production. The production of food should be controlled by one Minister in the same way as the Minister for Supply and Development controls the supply of materials needed by the munitions industry. Food and munitions are equally important, and what can be done in respect of one can be done in respect of the other.
I hope that the Government is sufficiently broad-minded to accept suggestions from this side of the committee and that it. will apply a policy which will not allow Australia to drift into the sea of inflation, but will enable it to grapple effectively with the war effort. . The Government must unite the military forces into one army, and there should be no distinction between the Australian Imperial Force and the Australian Military
Forces. We must not always be standing on the defensive. Our troops must turn the Japanese out of the northern islands, and when Australia is freed of the menace that now confronts it the day may eventually come when we shall be able to release ourselves for ever from the Japanese menace by destroying the Japanese nation.
.- The honorable member for New England (Mr. Abbott) described this budget as insincere. From the point of view of the honorable member and his colleagues, the budget may be bad, but my view is that it is the best budget ever presented to this Parliament in the circumstances.
– We have never experienced similar circumstances before.
– That is true, and Australia is indeed fortunate in having a Labour government to bring down a budget of this character. The main criticism of the budget by honorable gentlemen opposite has been based on the assumption that it leaves untaxed hundreds of millions of pounds of income earned by the workers. Those honorable gentlemen pose as economists, but one does not need to be an economist to know that the workers are the most heavily taxed people in the country. They are, perhaps, not taxed directly so heavily as are other sections of the community, but their contributions from meagre earnings to indirect taxation are immense. The honorable member for New England said that we must damp down the workers’ wages in order to bridge the gap between the anticipated revenue and the expenditure, and that central bank credit was to be avoided lest inflation be the result. I ask the honorable member whether he thinks the adoption of his suggestion would bridge the gap? I say that it would not. At any rate, even if the gap were not bridged, that would not mean that we should lose the war. This spectre of inflation is being raised by the Opposition in an attempt to stampede the people. The word “ inflation “ ought not to be used, because there is no fear of its occurring. There should never have been use of the term ten or twelve years ago when this country was cast into a depression owing to manipulations by the people who control finance. On that occasion the cry was, “ Cut wages and starve ourselves back into prosperity “. But the only people who achieved prosperity were those who engineered the fraud. I ask honorable gentlemen opposite to examine the workers’ wages and their obligations. Owing to causes beyond their control, notably the depression and the consequent unemployment, the workers have been in debt for years. The interests represented by the Opposition parties desire to keep them in that condition for ever. Surely it is right, now that the workers are earning a little more than they earned before in periods of intermittent work, that they should, after paying their taxes and buying the bare necessaries of life, be able to apply what little is left to the paying off of old debts, the lifting of mortgages and the like. In many respects, too, the increased wages are not wanted by the workers. Some have told me that they have had an Irishman’s rise, because their resultant heavier tax commitments leave them worse off than they were before. Whatever extra money the workers are earning is not going into a jam tin under the cherry tree; it is being used to pay off homes and to buy much-needed furniture.
The honorable member for Hume (Mr. Collins) yesterday said that I had to depend on growing wool for money, not on the printing press. I tell the honorable member that I have grown wool and never been paid for it. I have been robbed by the great interests that he and his colleagues represent. Like a stage magician the honorable member produced from his waistcoat pocket a German million mark note, and said that during the period when it was printed a chaff bag full of such notes was required to buy a tram ticket. His purpose in doing that was to try to hoodwink the people into believing that, as the result of this Government’s policies, a similar state of affairs will occur in this country, but the people are too wide-awake. They know as well as the honorable member knows that there will be no inflation in this country while this party is in power. They know that this Government has the means and the will to control credit. That is the chief worry of the parties opposite. They wish to regain the comfort of the treasury bench in order to ensure that the control of credit shall remain in the hands of the private banking companies so that their shareholders shall ever more reap annual harvests of interest on fictitious currency created by them. Our methods are the safer. Under this Government, credit will be issued from the central bank, and will be based on the real wealth of the nation.
Honorable members opposite have wearied, us constantly since the fall of the Fadden Government, but particularly in the last fortnight, with references to deferred credits, to be repaid after the war. I have vivid recollections of the gratuity bonds and deferred pay of the last war.
– Did the honorable member not find his deferred pay very useful to him after the last war?
– I did, but I was able to resist the blandishments of the land “shades “ and bond salesmen who plundered the money distributed amongst the returned men. The honorable member knows that it was not long before the wealthy interests grabbed that money back. Many workers during the last war took out bonds. In order to get possession of those bonds the financiers created a depression and forced great numbers of the people out of work, and to avoid starvation they had to offer their bonds for sale. But did they get the face value of the bonds? They certainly did not. They hardly got half the worth of the bonds. And who got the bonds?
– The stockbrokers.
– Yes, of course they did. The same thing will happen again. The workers are not hoarding their money. Examine any housewife’s budget and you will find how small a margin she has, in spite of all that the Opposition has said about the workers having more money than they have ever had before. That is true, but the only reason for its truth is the fact that they never before had nearly sufficient money. The Minister for War Organization of Industry (Mr. Dedman) has ensured that they shall not be allowed -to waste money on luxury goods, and the only thing left for them to do with whatever they have left after meeting current requirements goes towards restoring their financial equilibrium.
Thousands of workers are contributing as much as they can voluntarily to the Government’s loans and to war savings certificates. There is nothing left in their possession. Therefore, the central bank credit, under suitable safeguards, which this Government will not hesitate to apply, must be used, to finance the war. There has been a great deal of loose talk about conscription of wealth. I should like to see wealth conscripted, but I do not know how it can be. It is much more elusive than man-power, which has been conscripted, not only for the Army, but also for the Labour Corps. But efforts by this Government to conscript wealth have been hampered in every direction. Consider, for instance, the decision to limit profits to 4 per cent. So many obstacles were put in the way of that policy that .the Government was finally forced to abandon it. Honorable members opposite held up their hands in horror at the very suggestion that the manufacturers’ profits should be limited in any way. There would be no incentive for them to work, they claimed. The munitions programme would suffer, because the manufacturers would have no incentive to maintain production, to say nothing of increasing it. The concentration camp is the place for any one who would refuse to work on account of his profits being limited by governmental action. Soldiers, who declined to fight, because the smallness of their wages gave them insufficient incentive to do so, would be shot out of hand. I should welcome conscription of wealth and I urge the Government to do all it can to apply it. Let us have no more of the talk about widows and orphans when the Government comes forward with further plans for the harnessing of wealth to the war effort that marked the propaganda against the -proposal for a 4 per centlimit on profits.
– The Treasurer admitted yesterday that that scheme was unworkable.
– It may have been in its original form, but I suggest that some such scheme could be operated and that provision could -be made to make a rebate to any widows and orphans who may be the possessors of stock in companies. The Government and I want to get at the big man who shelters behind the widows and orphans. If we can once harness wealth, we can go a long way towards bridging the anticipated gap between revenue and expenditure. Let us get at the great industrial concerns, the insurance companies and, especially, the hanks, which hold most of the land of Australia under mortgage. The farmers are at the mercy of the banks and are constantly getting deeper into debt. Their mortgages have not been reduced. I do not trust the economists, because their theories have always been wrong. A man of average intelligence, with experience of business or farm life, usually has a far better idea of practical economics than has any of these theorists. The country will drift into difficulties unless the Government takes early action to balance its economic affairs. I myself am prepared to make great sacrifices for the welfare of the nation, but I want my neighbours to do likewise. I .am still paying the same rate of interest on my mortgage as I paid before the war; but, owing to wartime conditions, I, like thousands of other men, will soon be unable to meet my obligations as I did previously. My equity in the property which I hold is diminishing; but I have not heard anything yet about the mortgage diminishing. I have made sacrifices, but the bank still has a mortgage on my land and property without having made any sacrifices. These financial institutions will take over more and more of our land as the war progresses without having to share our growing burdens. It is wrong that this should happen while thousands of boys, who have no material assets to defend, are dying for their country. Surely the Government will not allow this to continue. The Opposition says that it wants an all-in war effort. So do I, but I especially want it to be an all-in financial effort. I am an ordinary man, and I do not pose as an expert, but I know how the war will affect me and thousands of others like me. All that Australia needs for the prosecution of the war is a sufficiency of food and plenty of material to provide the munitions of war. We could continue to fight without money for another ten years, but if we depend on money the war will soon be over. As long as we have the manpower needed to convert the wealth of the land into food and munitions we can fight. We must divert everything to the war effort. Without money we can still produce our material needs, but without food we cannot fight. That has been proved in other countries. In 1939 the economists said that the war would not last more than six months, because Germany could not finance its effort, but Germany proved them to be wrong. That nation needs, not money, but oil, wool, wheat and other raw materials. Food matters most of all, because the German? do not want to face another hungry winter. I have great confidence in our military leaders, who are well trained and know their jobs thoroughly, and they have told us that they have confidence in our men. But these military men know very little of our economic problems. They naturally want every fit man to be in the fighting services, because they know the pathetically small size of our population, but they forget about food and raw materials. We cannot afford to put all our men into uniform while the position of our civil industries is growing worse. Men have left the rural districts to serve in the armed forces and in secondary indue tries in such great numbers that the situation of our primary industries is dangerous. Our economy is already a little out of balance and the Government must take prompt action to restore equilibrium. The surest way to break down the morale of the people is to deprive them of essential foodstuffs. A nation may be strong in armaments, but it cannot succeed if its people are hungry. I remember how. during the war of 1914-18, the retreating German armies abandoned their guns and ate the horses which pulled the limbers. They were not defeated owing to a shortage of munitions. Their morale was undermined by shortage of food, and by other hardships. The German civil population suffered even more severely; I recall the terrible privations to which the people in German-occupied France were sub jected at that time. Our position in this country is made more difficult by the great distances which separate our main centres of population. For instance, wc might have plenty of one commodity in Western Australia, but might be unable to benefit from it owing to the difficult) of transporting supplies to the eastern States, thousands of miles away. The Government must plan for the future. It is useless to wait until there is a shortage of potatoes, meat or butter before taking action. Many dairy cows have already gone through the aba ttoirs, and it will take up to two years to re-establish the herds. The Government must deal with these problems now. The farmers are willing to co-operate with it. Sheepshearing presents another problem. Many people believe that it is merely a matter of sending men into die rural areas to do the work, but it would be futile to send men who were not experienced shearers. If the sheep were not shorn, they would be at the mercy of the blowflies, and the farmers and the nation would suffer a great economic loss. Many of the men who have been called up for military service are actually a liability to the Army. They should be combed out immediately and put to work in industries where they would be of some service to the country. I know of one man who served for four months in the Army, but he could not stand up to the training, and for three months of that period he was in hospital. He was able to work before he was called up, but after he was discharged he was unfit for any sort of job. That is how a great deal of manpower is wasted. Men must be found to do jobs in the primary industries that are essential to the war effort. The primary industries need men just as urgently as the armed forces and the munitions industries. The Government must strike a fair balance as between the three demands, even if it be forced to take men out of the Army. Many men could be taken from the armed forces without reducing our fighting efficiency.
The shortage of superphosphates offers a grave threat to our primary industries. Australia depends probably more than any other country on artificial fertilizers, yet I am satisfied that we have not done all that is possible to explore our local superphosphate deposits. The Parliamentary Committee on Rural Industries, of which I am a member, had evidence that, before the war of 1914-18, when the value of superphosphate was not fully appreciated, 125,000 tons had been mined from South Australian deposits. That was used mostly in the wheatgrowing areas because top-dressing was not known in those days. Those deposits should be further explored, whatever the cost may be. If a dairy-farmer’s pasture is deteriorating, he will soon be getting only half the normal quantity of milk from his beasts, although he will have to e mploy the same amount of labour to look after them. Geologists hold different views about the value of Ausralia’s superphosphate deposits. Some say that they are small and of little value, but, even if the quality be low, the manure could be mixed with the stocks that we already have. The Department of Commerce should give immediate attention to this problem.
We have heard a great deal of criticism of the Government from the other side of the chamber, but very little has been said of its achievements. It has been accused of encouraging inflation, but we can dismiss that as a bogy. One of its achievements is the improvement of social services which are of great value even in war-time. The Labour party is said to have nothing in common with men on the land. Iam one of these men on the land, and I know that we have a great deal in common with the workers. The Labour party is the only political party that has done anything to improve our position and the farmers have been exploited by anti-Labour elements just, as much as have the workers. I regard the United Country party as being the right wing of the United Australia party, and of the two the United Australia party has the more liberal outlook. The potato-growers were always in trouble until recently. When crops were good they received about 30s. a ton for their product, which the middleman sold in the Sydney market for about £18 a ton. The industry was unstable in every respect. Although this Government has been in office for less than a year, it has provided a guaranteed price for potatogrowers. The wool-growers also have benefited from the Government’s administration. Honorable gentlemen opposite were numb, dumb and docile for two or three years over the wool agreement. The Country party members claim that they are the champions of primary producers, but they did nothing. I can admire a member of the United Australia party who stands up stoutly for the interests which he claims to represent, but I have very little time for Country party members who let the interests of the primary producers go by the board. I do not regard such honorable gentlemen as being either straight or honest.
– What about the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Wilson) ?
– He belongs over here. At any rate he is a left-winger of the Country party. This Government has been able to obtain an extra 2d. per lb. for wool under the revised agreement with the Government of the United Kingdom and that is a great achievement which will be of lasting benefit to the economic structure of Australia. Wool is a staple industry and the reasonable marketing of it is immensely advantageous to our internal economy. The payment of an extra 2d. per lb. for wool does not in any sense involve the exploitation of the consumer, for the price is still reasonable. The Labour Government is entitled to claim credit for such actions.
We arc told that in this war everybody must make sacrifices and we agree with that statement; but I regret to say that very little has been done so far - in fact nothing at all was done until this Government came into office - to require the financial interests to make sacrifices. If I had my way I would bring these people up sharply. All that honorable gentlemen opposite seem to be able to suggest is that a national government be formed. One of their number, every little while, moves the adjournment of the House to discuss subjects such as clothes rationing, butthey do little else but harass and snipe at this Government.
– The national governments of other countries get on all right.
– I cannot imagine honorable gentlemen opposite being satisfied even if we had a national government. They would still be hypercritical. They cannot even agree among themselves. The last anti-Labour government fell to pieces because of internal dissension.
Mr.Guy. - That was not a national government. The present Prime Minister has been forced to disagree publicly with certain members of his Cabinet.
– Honorable gentlemen opposite are fond of talking of post-war reconstruction. I am afraid if an antiLabour government is in office at the end of the war there will be no reconstruction. We shall experience a repetition of the unhappy days that followed the last war. Everything possible would be done by honorable gentlemen opposite to bolster up capitalist institutions and there would be no new order. Instinctively, I know that this would be so. Why should capitalist institutions and individual capitalists surrender their privileges? They are not likely to be interested in the new order. No doubt honorable gentlemen opposite will make promises to the people, hut I hope that such promises will fall on deaf ears. Probably threats will also be made about the inflation bogy and the dangers of tampering withour banking and monetary system. But the fact remains that after the last war the anti-Labour forces “ sold out “ to the financial interests. The Commonwealth Government Shipping Line, the Commonwealth Woollen Mills, the Commonwealth Bank and other government and semi-government instrumentalities were “sold out” on the ground that they were too socialistic. We do not desire a repetition of that kind of thing. The people are looking for a new order based upon justice. Recently I read an interesting pamphlet entitled William Penn, in which it was pointed out that the density of population in Great Britain was 600 people to the acre. It was said that in spite of that fact the English people were able to have the food of all nations on their breakfast table, and the goods of all nations on the shelves of business houses. But it appears that after this war Great Britain may be a debtor nation, and things may be very different. Australia could do a great deal to help the people of Great Britain. We all are well aware that we need a larger population. This country could sustain a population of probably 20,000,000 or 30,000,000 people, but it would need industries commensurate with such a population. Under any reasonable conditions we could be sure that even that number of people would be assured of adequate food, clothing and. shelter in this country; but this will not be so if the affairs of the country are allowed to return to the hands of interests which will favour private banks and other financial institutions. We all must remember the pathetic attempt that was made after the last war by means of moving pictures, posters and all kinds of enticing propaganda to entice immigrants to Australia. But the very boats that brought immigrants here were loaded with manufactured goods, so that the whole procedure amounted to little more than a disgraceful swindle. This country must be freed from the control of international financiers. By some means our great national debts must be funded and sunk. It is deplorable that in a country with a vast State like Queensland available for settlement there should have ‘been, in days gone by, unappeased land-hunger and much unemployment. Our people wanted land, but they could not get it. That situation must be altered. Humanity must be regarded as being more sacred than money. After the last war our interest obligations were met while many of our people starved. I shall never be a party to the placing of the affairs of this country under a government which would allow that kind of thing to occur. The people would be well advised to take all necessary steps to ensure that the Labour party shall remain in control of the country; otherwise we shall look in vain for any satisfactory scheme of land settlement or any worth-while new deal.
Another matter to which attention should be devoted is education. It is often said that the children of the poor are deficient in brains and ability and that only the children of the upper or governing classes, so called, are worthy of higher education. That is a ridiculous contention which has been disproved on countless occasions. We should make it possible for children who show ability to pass right through the university on scholarships or bursaries without being a charge on their parents, because ultimately the country at large would reap the benefit of their education and attainments. It is highly important to every democracy that education shall be free. To-day, unfortunately, we are suffering from a lack of skilled artisans because facilities were not made available years ago for training young men who showed an aptitude for .various handicrafts. Similarly, boys and girls who show aptitude for the medical or other professions should be helped, lt may be, of course, that certain professions should be rationalized in these days by the Department of War Organization of Industry. Some of the professions could be entirely eliminated without great loss. I hope that after the war a department somewhat similar to the Department of War Organization of Industry will be an important feature of government activities in this country. We must by some means ensure that adequate free educational facilities shall be available for all the children who could benefit by them. I have in mind at the moment a father who has four sons. Two of them have gained scholarships, which were available to boys living in Victoria outside the metropolitan area. The eldest son is now in his fourth year as a medical student; but, in spite of the benefit of his scholarship, he is still costing his father £90 a year for the provision of instruments and other requirements. The second boy won a similar scholarship, and took an engineering course at the university ; but he, too, is a heavy financial burden on his father. The father is of the opinion that the two younger boys are quite as clever a3 their brothers, but he fears that he will be unable to carry the burden of maintaining them at the university, even if they should win scholarships, for he is already seriously embarrassed financially through his efforts to give to his elder sons the ‘best education possible. There should be no financial obligation on a parent in respect of sons who win scholarships. The State should bear whatever expense is involved in the training of boys of ability.
I fear that if a Tory government should again come into office in this country very little would be done to promote the interests of free education, or to provide effective laud settlement schemes, or to do many of the other things that are necessary for the progress of the country.
If any effort be made to embark upon land settlement schemes similar to those which followed the last war, I shall resist it to the utmost. I do not believe that our returned men and their wives should become beasts of burden. Yet that is what happened after the last war. In many cases, women had to cart water for even the most essential household uses. The properties of soldiers were under lien and all the revenue obtained from them was required to meet interest charges and the debts which had to be incurred. Land was bought in those days at inflated prices, and returned soldiers were put upon it under conditions which did not, give them a chance to succeed. We must avoid that kind of thing after this war. Some honorable gentlemen opposite are probably as anxious as I am to avoid such errors, but I fear that the anti-Labour parties are too much under the domination of powerful financial interests to be able to do anything effective in that regard. Under a Labour government such a state of affairs would not be tolerated. There is no need for it. The State could pay a just price for the land, being financed by the Commonwealth Bank. When the land had reverted to the Crown, it should not again be alienated. Leases could be given in perpetuity to those who took it up. Gradually that would put an end to trafficking in land and inflation of values. Under the existing system, boom prices are deliberately engineered, with the result that the purchasers of .land get into debt, from which they can never escape. When they find that they are unable to continue, and realize on the equity they have in the land, another purchaser for it is found. Dealing in land values is nothing short of a racket. It could not operate under the leasehold system, because only improvements could be sold. The effect would be to stabilize values.
I regard the budget as a good one, and congratulate the Government for having brought it down. Inflation can and will be avoided. I trust that the position of the primary producer will be safeguarded, and that where labour is absolutely necessary ft will be made available. The war effort would not thereby be adversely affected. The pastoral industry will be in a serious plight, and there will be considerable loss of livestock if sheep are not shorn at the proper time, because the carrying of heavy fleeces is distinctly detrimental on account of the ravages of the blowfly pest. The release of unfit men from the Army would go a long way towards overcoming labour shortages in primary industries. It is my sincere hope that the present Government will bring down many more budgets.
.- The honorable member for Wannon (Mr. McLeod) is very pleased with the budget. He ought to be, because he has placed his own construction upon it. As a matter of fact, the budget was designed to gull the people; and it has succeeded in gulling even the honorable member. He said that he could not see in it any signs of” inflation. That opinion is contrary to the view held by the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley), the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin), and every other member of the Cabinet ; all of them realize that a budget cannot be compiled under existing conditions without a measure of inflation. There is a gap of £300,000,000 which has to be bridged. The Government proposes to do that by wishful thinking. As the right honorable member for Kooyong (Mr. Menzies) has stated, the Government thought of a number and hoped to double it. It is looking to subscriptions to loans and war savings certificates to justify its optimism. I am not satisfied with the budget; or is any other member who sits on this side of the chamber. On the contrary, we are disappointed with it. This is the first real budget that the present Government has introduced since it has occupied the treasury bench. T’he foundation of its lastbudget was laid for it by the government of which I was a member, but the material and mixture belongs to the present Government. Honorable members opposite know that too much sand has been used with the cement, and that the result is likely to be an unstable building. The last Government was defeated on its proposal to institute a system of post-war credits. We have prophesied that in a few months the present occupants of the treasury bench will be glad to adopt such a. scheme. Thu budget is n cowardly one, because it runs away from the major problems that are inherent in the war in which we are engaged. The Sydney Bulletin, which I hold in high regard, has said that, the Government has produced a “gutless wonder “. The budget could not be described more expressively. It is a document of completely empty spaces. The deficiency of £300,000,000 cannot be made good by the use of windy phrases. In order to attain a maximum war effort much more will be needed than the pious hopes that have been expressed by honorable members opposite. With devilish ingenuity, the Government deliberately set out to gull the public, and it has succeeded in gulling members of its own party. I have a high regard for the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin), and enjoy the beautiful phrases that he spins. The country resounds with the wordy job of work that the right honorable gentleman is doing. He i3 acting as a foil to some of his Ministers, who have completely forgotten everything that relates to the war effort. The be-all and endall of their efforts appears to be to give effect to Labour’s peace-time policy in the present time of war. The appreciation of some Ministers of the crisis through which we are passing can be gauged by their belief that they should implement a peace-time policy suited to their own ends while they are in occupation of the treasury bench. History will deal with them, if the public does not reckon with them earlier. The Minister for War Organization of Industry (Mr. Dedman), for instance, has endeavoured to socialize everything. In common with other members of my party I have attempted to consider the problems of war apart from party affiliations, believing that the war will demand of us everything that we possess, and that ultimately we may have to sacrifice all that we have secured during the last 150 years. In short, I consider that ‘we shall have to transfer all our resources, either those that are idle or those that are in use, to a maximum war effort. This transfer should have been effected gradually from the commencement of the war, and should have increased in tempo with the passingof the years. Had that been done we might now have had a maximum war effort. That is not the position. The budget fails to implement plans that are essential to the times, and jeopardizes the war effort that has been achieved by the public, notwithstanding the lack of control by the Government. It threatens the solvency of this country. Control must be imposed in a time of war if we are to have a maximum war effort. It should be exercised in regard to not only minor matters but also all men, materials and money. Only when that has been done shall we achieve a maximum war effort. Let us judge the Government according to the dictum, “ By their works ye shall know them “. If the aim of the controls that have been instituted is to achieve the best results, a budget of this character can be explained away. But what are the facts? Approximately 2,500,000 persons are engaged in general employment, including: those who are occupied with war work. When Australia’s very life is being threatened by Asiatic hordes, not one-half of that number is engaged directly in war work. Until that position has been reached, we shall not have even a 50 per cent, war effort. War workers are not being so controlled as to ensure that they will give the maximum of which they are capable. They are being permitted to shed their responsibility. Instead of being regimented into an industrial army, as the soldiers are regimented in a fighting army, with the conditions that exist in the fighting forces, they are drawing abnormal wages. Since this war broke out the wages bill of Australia has increased by approximately £150,000,000. Most of the men engaged on war work are doing a very good job, and it is only natural for them to take advantage of the present situation to improve their conditions, if they are allowed to do so. It is here that the Government should exercise control. However, while the soldiers are risking their lives for a. “miserable pittance, the wages of munitions workers are being increased, the workers are being given the right to strike, and compulsory unionism is being introduced. In other words, the Government is pandering to one section of the community.. The workers are being encouraged to improve their industrial position by any and every means. Under this Government, a policy of opportunism is being practised. Ministers talk openly of the nationalization of industry, thus creatingunrest in the minds of the workers engaged in industry. The workers have been given the right to strike on the least provocation. Could anything be more puerile than the Government’s attempt to put down industrial unrest on the coal-fields ? It brought in regulations to prevent strikes; it appealed to the miners not to go on strike, and then, under pressure, it legalized strikes. In addition to all this, the Government has permitted the wages bill to increase by £150,000,000. This brings me to the subject of rationing, because I believe that rationing was designed to prevent the spending of surplus income on nonessential things.
– Not at all.
– Then why was it introduced ?
– Because of the shortage of materials.
– The Minister knows that the primary purpose of rationing is to divert men and money from non-essential industries to war work. The Prime Minister, himself, has said so.
– That is not true.
– I do not blame the Minister for War Organization of Industry for what has happened. In his attempts to deal with surplus income by rationing he is like the small hoy who attempts to bail out the ocean with a thimble. He has a tough job on his hands, and unless the Government helps him by taxing surplus income out of the hands of the community he has little chance of success. The Government cannot hope to reduce consumption by half measures in the way of rationing. I know that the Minister for War Organization of Industry has prepared plans for the complete rationing of goods, and this has been done, not because of a shortage of materials, but because it is the only way to deal effectively with the surplus spending power. An elementary principle of economics is that wages are paid for all goods produced. Therefore, if the Government rations goods without taking some of the wages out of the hands of the people, the effect will merely be to increase the demand for non-rationed goods, or to encourage “ black “ markets for the sale of rationed goods. The surplus income of the people will seek an outlet in one way or another. If this is to be avoided, the Government must ration money at the same time that it rations goods. Because of the very large, amount of money in circulation, the Prices Commissioner is experiencing great difficulty in keeping prices down. Unless the Government helps him by taxing the surplus money out of the hands of the community - and I arn thinking particularly now of that section of the community which is in receipt of £400 a year and less - the Prices Commissioner will be forced to take such action against some industries as will cripple them for all time. Industry will not carry on unless there is an incentive to do so. The hands of the Prices Commissioner should be strengthened, not by giving him authority to prosecute and have useless fines imposed on profiteers, but by giving him authority to impose fines in the same way as does the Commissioner of Taxation. Indeed, the Prices Commissioner and the Commissioner of Taxation should work hand in hand. Unless steps be taken to withdraw surplus money from circulation, the Government will be driven from one form of control to another in an attempt to stem the flood of inflation that is threatening to overwhelm every body.
Let ns now consider the Government’s taxation policy. I have heard it said time and time again that the policy of the Labour party is to “soak” the rich and the middle classes. I do not propose, at a time like this, to object to “ soaking “ the rich. Every body should pull his weight, but I disagree with the policy of the Government in pandering to its political supporters in the lower ranges of income. Those groups which together receive 70 per cent, of the national income aro contributing only 4 per cent, to the cost of the war in direct taxation. In
New South Wales, during the depression and afterwards, a Labour government which was more leftist than is this Commonwealth Government - with the exception of a few of its supporters - imposed a wages tax. If a tax of ls. in the £1 were imposed on all wages earned in Australia, it would raise many millions of pounds for the war effort, and those who contributed it would not suffer.
– That is what is hurting the honorable member - the fact that the workers are not being taxed enough.
– Things cannot be kept at boom levels all the time, especially when there is a war on. If an attempt be made to do so, something must “ bust “, and that will happen very soon if the Government insists upon giving immunity to its supporters. Why does the Government do this? Is it the result of faulty reasoning? Perhaps it is. Does the Government assume that, because the national income is £1,000,000,000, and it has introduced a budget of £500,000,000, the country is making a 50 per cent, war effort financially? Surely not. Even a 50 per cent, effort would not be possible unless every one contributed according to his ability to pay. That, however, is not in the Government’s programme. There is a gap of £300,000,000 in the budget, so that, although the national income is £1,000,000,000, the Government proposes to take only £200,000,000. The other £300,000,000 is to be raised by way of voluntary loans. I suggest that the Government will be compelled to draw upon the credit of the country to a dangerous extent. However, suppose the Government, by some extraordinary occurrence, were able to raise all the money it wanted by voluntary loans from that, large group of persons who earn £400 a year and leas, it would still have to pay interest on the money. In war-time, most of a nation’s revenue is expended on goods which are blown into thin air, so that the result of this method of finance will be that our children, and our children’s children, will be condemned to go on paying interest for an indefinite time on money borrowed for the production of goods that were made merely to be destroyed. The Government has injected credit into the financial structure of the community, and that credit must be withdrawn. Unfortunately, the money is not being withdrawn from the community, and the Government is raising interestbearing loans that will, in future years, have to be converted and reconverted.
– Did the previous Government intend to repudiate the forced loans that, it, intended to raise?
– Contributions to post-war credits would have been made by all salary-earners and wage-earners, and by businesses.
– The previous Government intended to pay interest on the post-war credits.
– The interest rate was a mere 2 per cent., which the Government pays every day on treasurybills. My remarks are directed to loans raised on the open market. Post-war credits arc substantially different from loans to which the public subscribes.
The Government Ls urging the people to achieve a maximum war effort. Unfortunately, it neglects to withdraw from circulation the vast sums that it spends upon defence. That money, which finds its way into the pockets of the workers, is accumulating so rapidly that, unless Ministers alter radically their present financial policy, inflation must overtake the country. The war effort matters little in terms of money, because money can always be obtained. The Treasurer is aware of that. But uncontrolled money, instead of being a boon to the community, will become a menace. Surplus money in the pockets of the community competes with the Government for labour and material. The responsibility of the Government is to prevent that competition ; but this uncontrolled money is one of the greatest brakes on our war effort, and constitutes a positive danger. Inspiring talks by Ministers merely confuse the people, though they serve a valuable purpose to the Government because they divert public attention from the actions of some Ministers.
– What Ministers has the honorable member in mind?
– The Minister for War Organization of Industry, who is an academic socialist, and the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Ward). They are the terrible twins of this Government. While the country is being fed with fair words, these Ministers are “ socking “ the public, right, left, and centre, with their efforts to give effect to the peace-time policy of the Labour movement. From time to time, members of the Opposition have submitted motions to disallow regulations that have been promulgated for the sole purpose of advancing the policy of the Labour party. Honorable members opposite do not deny it. By interjection, and by speech, they ask: “ Why should we not implement our peace-time policy when we have the opportunity to do so?”
– My complaint is that the Government is not introducing the policy of the Labour party.
– The Opposition is of opinion that the Government is using its war-time authority to give effect to the domestic policy of the Labour movement.
The budget speech foreshadows a referendum in which the Commonwealth will seek increased powers, but I doubt whether it will be wise in war-time to take the risk of dividing the people on a highly controversial issue. While Australia is at war, the Commonwealth Government, may override the authority of the States, and should not be permitted to carry over war-time control into the post-war era. In my opinion, the people do not desire it, and any attempt to seek additional powers by taking advantage of the present emergency would be neither fair nor wise. In the post-war era, private enterprise and individual initiative will undertake the reconstruction. They will succeed, where socialism would fail. Unfortunately, the refusal of the Government to adopt the system of post-war credits will leave the people without money with which to rehabilitate themselves. With money circulating freely, people are spending lavishly. Whereas soldiers will receive deferred pay, civilians will not do so, and many of them will suffer. I am highly suspicious of the Government’s proposal to seek additional powers, because Ministers will use them to implement their pet theories. A solution of the post-war financial problem is a post-war credits scheme, and the Government will be driven eventually to adopt it.
From time to time, references have been made in the chamber to the difficulty which soldiers experience in purchasing supplies of tobacco and cigarettes. In my opinion, the excise on the manufacture of tobacco for the troops should be abolished. In the last war, cigarettes were distributed free of charge to the Australian Imperial Force and the British Army. To-day, the soldiers are obliged to buy their “ smokes “, and they pay “ through the nose “ for them. Under the lease-lend arrangement, the Commonwealth has imported from the United States of America tobacco leaf for which it will not be required to pay in dollars. That manufactured leaf could he made available to the soldiers free of duty. The Government has only to satisfy the Lease-lend authorities in the United States of America that the transaction is legitimate, and the fact that tobacco and cigarettes smoked by American forces in Australia are not subject to tariff duties or excise creates an excellent precedent.
Many anomalies have arisen regarding the taxation of soldiers’ pay. This morning the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) referred to the experience of seme members of the Royal Australian Air Force a;t Darwin. They had fought in New Guinea, and in the Solomon Islands, but the Taxation Department ruled that they were not serving beyond the boundaries of the Commonwealth. That decision was ridiculous, because Australian troops who may have occupied a small island in the Pacific are not required to pay taxes. The Government should A sue, a ruling that troops who are in operational units - not operational areas - shall be exempt from taxes.
After the debacle in the Far East, I attended a dinner that was tendered to Lieutenant-General Gordon Bennett, the Officer Commanding the Australian Imperial Force in Malaya. About twenty famous war correspondents attended the function, and some of them expressed their opinions about the campaign. Each speaker paid a high tribute to the fighting qualities of Lieutenant-General Gordon Bennett, and his sound knowledge of jungle warfare. Now, that man is languishing in Western Australia, and I doubt whether the Army authorities have availed themselves of his experience for the benefit of our forces in New Guinea. One wonders why he languishes in Western Australia. He is a civilian general. He is not one of the staff corps. I do not know whether that has anything to do with his transfer to Western Australia. But all civilian generals are given a place well below the fighting line. In the la*t Avar, civilian generals were the cream of the service, and distinguished themselves. Jungle warfare has not yet finished. When we begin a counter offensive, we shall have to drive the Japanese back through the jungle through which they previously advanced.
This budget is false. The Government will have to revise it within a few months. If the Prime Minister and the Treasurer, whom I credit with having brains, are persuaded by an irresponsible minority in caucus to adhere to it. we shall suffer the worst debacle we have ever experienced.
.- I had no intention of speaking on this budget, but I am forced to do so by the unutterably disgusting game of party politics that the Opposition is playing.
I have in my possession proof of the rotten conspiracy that has been hatched by the Opposition to attack the Government, not on its merits, but for the purpose of trying to supplant it, in spite of the open offer of co-operation tendered to the Government by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Fadden) after the defeat of his Government. I recollect that when the right honorable member for Kooyong (Mr. Menzies) returned from abroad he made a speech in Sydney in which he deplored the “ diabolical game of party politics “. Yet we find the flock of which he is a member, aided and abetted by the Country party, engaging in a diabolical plot against the Government. For the last fortnight, we have seen evidence of the development of that plot. First, we had a motion for the adjournment of the House to discuss the wheat situation, and yesterday the subject of compulsory unionism was raised on a similar motion. The right honorable member for Kooyong, who expressed such indignation at the playing of what he described as the diabolical game of party politics, is himself not above playing that very game. He did so yesterday. He took the Labour party to task for using its period in office to put its policies into effect. Why should it not? Our policy is the only policy which will enable us to win this war.
– The letter to which the honorable member referred was addressed specifically to some honorable members. I should like the honorable gentleman to mention the name of the honorable member whose copy he has.
– Never mind the name. The right honorable gentleman is “hot under the collar” because he knows that he stands condemned as the leading player in the diabolical game of which the right honorable member for Kooyong professed such abhorrence. The Leader of the Opposition unctuously held out his hand to the Prime Minister in a spirit of mock co-operation, while his other hand held the assassin’s knife with which he is seeking to stab into the Government’s back. I do not wonder at his discomfiture. The letter is in the following terms: -
Asyou are aware, the Federal Parliamentary Opposition executive met in Canberra on the 29th and 30th, July, and again in Melbourne on the 14th August, when several important subjects affecting the present Government’s administration were discussed and the views of the executive announced.
The subjects upon which the executive expressed its views following the meetings on the 29th and 30th July were-
Proposed 4 per cent, profit limitation.
Honorable members opposite did not like that.
They did not like that either, because those regulations ensured the co-operation, instead of the antagonism, of the coalminers, whereas the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt), as Minister for Labour and National Service, was a ghastly failure in his attempts to ensure the maintenance of coal production, for the simple reason that he did not know how to handle the situation.
– The honorable member does not like that.
– If the honorable member for Fawkner had read the newspapers to-day he would have seen that the members of the Australian Imperial Force in New Guinea have accepted their colleagues in the Australian Military Forces as brothers in arms. That indicates that it does not require any merging of the two forces to make the Australian a good soldier when he is fighting on his own territory.
How well I remember the right honorable member for Kooyong making a speech in the Sydney Town Hall on his return from overseas and saying that there would have to be restriction of non-essential production. But did the right honorable gentleman then and there take action to restrict the production and consumption of liquor which has such deleterious effects on soldiers and civilians alike? Did he restrict the manufacture of cosmetics and chocolates and other such useless things? No! It required this Government to clamp down on such things.
The way in which the Minister for War Organization of Industry (Mr. Dedman) has handled that matter is an indication that this Government is determined effectively to organize this country to the maximum of its capacity for the winning of the war.
You have already received a detailed statement setting out our views of the executive on these matters and a further detailed statement indicating the reactions of the Prime Minister and of other Ministers, together with any further statements by myself as Leader of the Opposition.
At a meeting held in Melbourne on the 14th August, consideration was given to the following subjects: -
We were attacked on that subject yesterday.
I suppose the adjournment of the House will be moved next week to debate that, subject.
Now that the right honorable member for Cowper(Sir Earle Page) has been coopted to serve on that council I suppose that we shall hear something further on that subject.
Doubtless you will have seen in the press the views of the executive on these matters and reactions of the Government in some cases.
Apparently some Ministers just ignored the Opposition.
Detailed statements concerning same will he forwarded to you by Mr.. Byrne. Immediately Parliament re-assembles, we, as an Opposition, must be ready to put forward a strong case on every subject which calls for an expression of the views of the Opposition in the House. No doubt senators and members generally have had brought to their notice or have personal knowledge of maladministration, abuse of power, bungling and inefficiency in relation to many of the subjects which the executive has considered. In regard to the other subjects whichwe discussed, the Opposition mustbe ready to advance sound and constructive views on the floor of Parliament.
That is absolutely impossible. In the three weeks Parliament has been sitting we have not had one sound or constructive suggestion from the Opposition.
This applies particularly to the merger of the Australian Imperial Force and the Australian Military Forces, compulsory unionism, censorship, war organization, man-power, profits fixation and liquor. I would, therefore, respectfully ask you to draw up your observations under these headings and be ready to voice them in the House. Should you have information which you consider should he of value in the drafting of a case with which I might lead an attack in Parliament on any of the subjects mentioned, it would be appreciated if you would forward them to me at Parliament House, Canberra. Will you kindly regard the action suggested in this letter as a matter of urgency because only a brief time remains before the pre-sessional party meeting?
With kindest regards,
– Is that signed by me?
– It finishes, “A. W. Fadden “.
– But is it signed by me?
– I am not under cross-examination. Does the Leader of the Opposition repudiate the letter?
– The honorable member ought to mind his own business.
– This letter is marked “ strictly confidential “.
– That indicates the honorable member’s calibre. To whom is it addressed ?
– It is addressed to R. T. Pollard, Woodend, Victoria.
– And does the honorable gentleman consider that he is treating it confidentially?
– It was addressed to me. I am justified in quoting it. I thought when I received it that the Opposition hoped th at I might be susceptible to the suggestions which it contained. However it fell on barren soil.
– I challenge the honorable member to table it.
– I am agreeable to do so. The letter is on official House of Representatives paper. I notice that the Leader of the Opposition does not challenge its genuineness.
– How did the honorable member come by it?
– It is addressed to me.
– It is not addressed to you at all.
– Yes it is. Having revealed the sort of co-operation which that Opposition is actuallygiving to the Government in the war effort I have little else to say. I hope that the budget will be accepted. I am sure that it will meet with the approval of the people. It is well drawn and provides that the sacrifices which are necessary in war-time shall be spread as evenly as possible over the whole community. We have heard all sorts of speeches from honorable members opposite who have raised inflation, communism and other bogys,but I have heard these same old stories repeated over and over again. The inflation bogy has been invoked at; all elections during the last twenty years, and to-day it has no more life than the dodo. The Opposition parties, when they were in charge of the Government, had plenty of opportunities to help the unemployed, particularly during the years of the economic depression, but nothing of any great value was done in that direction until this Government came into office with its unorthodox methods of finance. They are not so unorthodox asI should like, but it is good to see that the war effort is being financed properly and that every man and woman capable of working has a job at last. Only recently I met an old friend of mine, a digger of the 1914-18 war, who is again in uniform. When I asked about his health, he replied : “ I am fine. There is peace on the home front at last. I am earning 6s. a day in the Army and my wife and children are getting dependants’ allowances as well.” It is a shocking condemnation of past governments that a war is needed to bring peace to the home front. This improvement has been brought about as the result of the Labour party’s accession to office. Honorable members opposite talk of the soldier and his pay, but they had to be removed from the Government side of the chamber before the pay of our fighting men was increased. When the Labour party said at the last elections that soldiers should receive increased pay, its opponents told the electors that it was trying to buy soldiers’ vote. Now it is indulging in the same sort of propaganda. Yesterday, the honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. McDonald) spoke of the “ outrageous amounts” paid to men who took a dredge from Victoria to Western Australia. Apparently the honorable gentleman was well briefed by the Victorian Minister for Agriculture who, ever since he left the Labour parity, has never missed an opportunity to attack the workers. Every body knows that dredges are not sea-going vessels. The job of taking that dredge to Western Australia was exceptionally hazardous, and the men were entitled to substantial payment for it. It ill-becomes the honorable member to talk of that sort of thing. The case of those men is no different from that of an auctioneer, which I understand the honorable gentleman to be in private life. An auctioneer is not in constant employment. Sometimes he may conduct a special clearing sale for a. farmer and effect a total turnover of £1,000, for which he draws a commission of £50.
– If he can collect it.
– That is a reflection on the honesty of the farming community. Of course he collects every penny. I would be the last to suggest that £50 was too high a remuneration for such a day’s work, because I know that at other times the auctioneer may not earn anything. A similar consideration applies to the men who took that dredge to Western Australia. The honorable member’s job is scarcely as hazardous as that of the cook he sneered at, who received £60 for the trip to Western Australia. I am satisfied that the Opposition’s claim of co-operation with the Government in the war effort has been revealed as a hollow mockery and as a mask to a subversive conspiracy against the Government.
Orderof Business - “The Country - man “ : Criticism of Mr. Calwell, M.P. - Discharged Soldiers: Issue of Civilian Outfit - Opposition Parties : Attitude to Government - Tasmanian Man-power - Government Expenditure in Canberra : Use of Ministerial Cars.
– I move -
That the House do now adjourn.
We shall next week continue the discussion of the first item of the budget, and at the first sitting I expect the committee to sit until the general debate has ended. I consider that it is imperative, in view of the programmethat the Government has planned, to dispose of this discussion at the next sitting so tha t we may proceed to consideration of the Estimates and other legislation which the Government has planned.
.- In the last issue of The Countryman, which is the organ of the Victorian Country party, a statement appears under the heading, “ Victorian Budgets Faked, Allegation by M.H.R.” I protest against the misrepresentation to which I have been subjected by this journal, both on this occasion and on another occasion. I deny that I specifically attacked the budgets of any Victorian governments in the general remarks which I made several days ago about the manner in which all budgets can be, and are on occasions, faked by the failure of governments to bring in all items of revenue and expenditure, thus presenting a false picture to the country. I merely made general remarks and stressed the fact that die surpluses which the State governments were showing to-day were not their actual surpluses; the actual surpluses were twice as large as those which were disclosed. 1 urged also that the Government should reduce the grants that were to be made to the States under legislation enacted in this chamber recently, in order that it should not have to put further imposts upon the people. However, the managing director of this paper, Mr. A. E. Hocking, has seen fit to misrepresent my statements for the purpose of carrying on his own private vendetta against the Victorian Country party government. I object to my remarks being distorted to serve the interests of an internal quarrel in that party. Mr. Hocking does not like the Victorian Premier, Mr. Dunstan, because on one occasion that gentleman removed Mr. Hocking from membership of the Board “of the State Savings Bank of Victoria. Whether Mr. Dunstan was right in doing that I do not know, but there is no reason why any section of the press in this country - <in this instance The Countryman - should be permitted to use remarks made by honorable members in the course of debates in this Parliament for the purpose of carrying on private vendettas. Some time ago Mr. Hocking caused a leading article to be written in his paper making an unprovoked attack upon me for something which I did not say, and for something which I did not do. With an ulterior motive that journal, like certain daily papers, ha3 seen fit to attack me again, and I take this earliest opportunity of protesting, and challenging this paper, which is rapidly qualifying for membership of the yellow press, to quote my remarks in controversion of what has been published. I repeat that I did not mention the Victorian budget at all, and I made no comparison of the budget of any Victorian government with that of a New South Wales government, or the government of any other State. My remarks were general, and they were addressed to what I believed to be an important public matter/ namely, the fact that to-day, whilst State governments have swollen surpluses of revenue, the Commonwealth
Government which has the responsibility for financing the war, is at its wit’s end to find money. This journal which is supposed to be the official organ of the Victorian Country party is, in actual fact, the official enemy of the Victorian Country party Government. I have no intention of permitting myself to be used by it in internal troubles. Such disputes should be confined to party conferences. It is significant that Mr. Hocking’s executive failed to call a conference of the Victorian Country party this year. Presumably he had very good reasons for not wishing to face his members.
I draw the attention of the Minister for the Army (Mr. Forde) to a matter of very grave concern to members of the Australian Military Forces, many of them returned soldiers from the last, war, who have been unfairly treated upon discharge. Last June I received a letter from one of my constituents setting out his complaint. I cite this case because I believe that it is not a singular instance, but is indicative of the general condition of affairs in the Army. This is what he said -
I was in Heidelberg Hospital for two weeks and was marched out of the Army after being boarded. I got seven days’ sick leave; then I went back to Heidelberg and the same day I was sent to Caulfield race-course, where they gave me a pass until the next day, when they gave me orders to report to my area officer, saying that he would supply me with a suit of clothes when I handed in my uniform. When I got there, I discovered they don’t issue clothes. The om er told me it is all done from Caulfield. But at that camp they say they don’t issue suits to any one except men from overseas. I have been to every place in Melbourne and I am sick and tired of running about. Nobody seems to have authority to issue me with a suit.
I point out that this man served in the last war. and again offered his services in this war, but being over age, he could not be accepted for active service in the Australian Imperial Force.
The let ter continues -
I have no clothes to wear, and I cannot get a discharge until my uniform is handed in; I am walking about in my uniform. I have no money to buy a suit, and, if I had, I have no coupons as I am in uniform and not entitled to them. My pay and my wife’s pay were stopped on the 25th June, so I am going to work on Monday in uniform.
T draw the attention of the Minister to the fact that I hara been waiting since June for a satisfactory reply. On the 14th September this man again wrote to me, as follows : -
That seems to indicate that somebody whose responsibility it is to settle this question of whether members of the Australian Military Forces are entitled to suits of civilian clothing upon discharge is either unwilling or unable to make up his mind about the facts. Now that I have mentioned the case in this chamber - presumably there are many others like i t - I hope that the Minister for the Army will see that this man’s grievances are rectified, and that soldiers who are discharged after honorable service are entitled to at least a suit of clothing. I understand that the contract price for a suit of civilian clothes for discharged members of the Australian Military Forces is something like £1 13s. Gd. Surely that is not too much to give a soldier when he leaves the service. In any case, when, the soldier to whom I have referred was discharged he did not have any money with which to buy a suit, and obviously he believed that he had a grievance. Bie had no money in his pay book, and he should be under no obligation to purchase his own suit of clothes.
– I express my disgust at an incident, which occurred in committee this afternoon while the budget was being debated. The honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. Pollard) read a letter written by me, which he admitted was marked, “ Strictly confidential “. He stated that it was addressed to him. Whether it was or not, I cannot say. I make no apology for the contents of that letter. I do not believe that the Prime. Minister (Mr. Curtin), or any other reasonably minded member of the Government,, will raise any objection to it. The honorable member for
Ballarat used the letter for the purpose of supporting an argument that this side of the House was not co-operating wholeheartedly with the Government in its war effort. I do not think that any unbiased person could suggest that the letter contains any evidence of a lack of desire by the Opposition to co-operate with the Government. When the Prime. Minister was Leader of the Opposition he stated, on more than one occasion, and rightly 30, that, it was the duty of an Opposition to he vigilant, critical and constructive. It was for the purpose of assisting this Opposition to be vigilant, critical and constructive that I addressed that confidential letter to the members of my party.
– No doubt the Prime Minister when Leader of the Opposition had confidential communications with the members of his party.
– Knowing the organizing ability and effective leadership of the Prime Minister, I have no doubt that he took_ similar action when he was Leader of the Opposition, but no one doubted for a moment his desire to co-operate effectively and properly with the government of the day in connexion with the war effort. I challenge any honorable, member to prove that, in any respect whatsover, this Opposition has not whole-heartedly cooperated with the Government in the making of an effective war effort, and that it does not desire to continue to do so. That does not mean that the Opposition should be a rubber-stamp, and so fail to discharge effectively its duty and responsibility to the people of Australia. This Opposition represents 50 per cent, of the people of Australia, and it has a duty to criticize the administration of the Government and to scrutinize the legislation submitted to Parliament. It was with the object of discharging that obligation that I wrote the circular letter which was improperly, unfairly, and without warrant quoted by the honorable member for Ballarat this afternoon.
.- Last Thursday I asked the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) a question without notice in relation to the man-power position in
Tasmania. The right honorable gentleman requested rue to place it on the notice-paper. I did so, and on Friday last J. received a reply to the effect that inquiries were being made and a reply would be furnished to me as early as possible. Only a few weeks ago an honorable senator published in the Hobart Mercury a report of a consultation he had had with the Prime Minister on this subject. He pointed out that the Prime Minister had said that action had been taken to stop the recruitment of labour in the direction indicated. If it was possible for the honorable senator to obtain an answer from the Prime Minister and to publish a report on the subject in a Tasmanian newspaper a fortnight ago, why has it not been possible for the right honorable gentleman to give me a reply to a question which I placed on the notice-paper a week ago? I appreciate the fact that the Prime Minister is very busy, and ! have no desire to hinder him in any way whatever; but as an honorable senator and a member of his own political party could obtain a reply to a question on this subject, I wish to know why I have not been able to get one.
.- During my speech on the budget on Thursday of last week, I referred to what I termed the unnecessary spending of public money in Canberra. My statement was severely criticized by the Minister for the Interior (Senator Collings), who denied the truth of what I had said. I assure honorable members that I am not given to the telling of falsehoods or to the making of statements for which there is no foundation in fact. I claim the right, as a member of Parliament and as the representative of the electors of Adelaide, to criticize whatever government may be in office if I think it deserves criticism. When I sat on the other side of the chamber .1 criticized the Government I supported, just as I have since criticized this Government. I was surprised and disappointed by the attack made on me by the Minister for the Interior.
On the same occasion I said something about the use of motor cars by Ministers. The Minister for the Interior, in reply, mid definitely that no government motor car had been sent to Melbourne from Canberra since last November which was not propelled by producer-gas. There are Ministers present who know that my statements are correct.
– The Minister’s statement was true.
– The honorable member knows nothing about the subject. 1. have two eyes and I also have witnesses. The cars were seen going a way from Canberra, and they were seen coming back. If they were equipped with producer-gas units, the work was done somewhere on the journey. The Prime Minister has asked the people to co-operate in an austerity campaign. I am heart and soul with him in that matter. I want Ministers, honorable members opposite, and honorable members on this side of the chamber to be with him, too. In my view, the Government should set an example. Two motor cars did go from Canberra to Melbourne as I stated, and they were propelled by petrol and not producer-gas. Some people say, “Let the past die in the past” but I say that we ought to do what is right now without waiting for the future.
– We shall not do that.
– Perhaps the honorable member foa- Griffith would be better dead anyway.
– Is the honorable member for Adelaide in order in hoping for an immediate vacancy in the House £
– Perhaps it would be better. I do not know. In my speech I referred to the painting of a certain building m Canberra. The Minister for the- Interior said that my statement of the cost was incorrect, and that I should have known better than to make such a statement. Let me tell honorable members how I worked out my figures. I saw that there were eight men and a boss on the job. They were working at night-time. I make no charge against the men. As they were working at night-time they were entitled to double pay. I believe that the ordinary rate paid to painters is fi 7s. a shift. Double pay would make the pay £2 14s. a shift. I wish to be quite honest in this matter. If the men had worked right through the shift, an expenditure of £96 would have been incurred on labour. I went to bed that night and I cannot say whether the men worked a whole shift. They may have worked only half a shift. I shall therefore put the labour charge down at half the figure I stated. I assumed that the painters gave their work three coats of paint. I estimated that 5 gallons of paint would be used for the first coat, three for the second coat, and two for the third coat, which would have involved an expenditure of £10 for paint. If £10 be added to the labour charge that I have mentioned, the total will approximate my original figure. Whether the work cost £60 or £16, the expenditure was not justified, because private individuals are not permitted to purchase paint for the interior of a building. In such matters the Government should be the first to set an example to the rest of the community.
I am not ashamed of any statement that I have made. Take the expenditure of about £900 on the recarpeting of the Hotel Canberra. The Minister for the Interior said that the Government did not purchase the carpet. I do not care who bought it. The Minister for War Organization of Industry (Mr. Dedman) announced some time ago that clothing was to be rationed, and that vests were not to be worn by men, because wool was badly needed for other purposes. Is it consistent to waste hundreds of pounds in the purchase of a carpet, when clothes are rationed in order to conserve wool?
– Prohibition is not against the purchase of goods already manufactured, but against the making of new articles.
– I do not intend to be put off my argument. We have witnessed the greatest amount of bungling in the history of Australia. The people of Great Britain were notified on a certain date that they had 25 margarine tickets in their ration books, and that these would be available for use in the purchase of clothing; but the Minister for War Organization of Industry gave to the public six weeks’ notice of the rationing proposals, and full advantage of the position was taken in the meantime by persons who had money to spend.
I fail to see why able-bodied members of Parliament should be conveyed in motor cars at midnight to their hotels, which are situated a third of a mile distant from Parliament House in one direction, and a quarter of a mile distant in the other. One Minister recently proceeded to Queensland in a government car. I understand that it was fitted with a producer-gas unit, but I point out that the people have been asked to conserve motor tyres in every way. Many people in important industries cannot buy tyres for their vehicles. To-day a government motor car was driven to the Hotel Kurrajong. I believe that a Minister was about to travel in the car, because luggage was placed in it. I have heard that producergas units are placed on some motor cars in order to hide the fact that .petrol is used in them. The particular car to which 1 ant referring was fitted with a producergas unit, but, when I placed my hand on it, it was as cold as Mount Franklin, and probably had not been lit for a week. The driver said that he would light it on the journey. I consider that to be an absolute disgrace. I ask the Government, when advocating an austerity campaign, to practise what it preaches. Every word uttered by me the other day was true.
– Everything that the honorable member has said this afternoon about Ministers is not true.
– I claim that every word is true; and the honorable member knows that it is.
.- Most of the statements made by the honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Stacey) are incorrect. I have discussed this matter, not only with the honorable member, but also with the Ministers concerned. If the statements made were true, I should be totally opposed to such action by Ministers; but I have consulted the transport officers and have ascertained that, with the exception of an army car used in Western Australia, all of the cars engaged on interstate trips by Ministers have been fitted with producer-gas units. These units are not placed on any army cars.
– They are used on at least two in Western Australia.
– The honorable member for Adelaide, when discussing the biggest budget ever presented to this Parliament, introduced the most trivial complaints imaginable. He objects to the painting of the ceiling of the dining room at the Hotel Kurrajong at a cost of £48. The expenditure, even according to the honorable member, was only £120. The honorable member laid on the Minister for the Interior (SenatorCollings) the blame for the expenditure of money on recarpeting the Hotel Canberra. That carpet was purchased by the brewery which controls the hotel, and the Minister hadnothing to do with the matter. The carpet was already manufactured and it cost only half the sum mentioned by the honorable member - £900. I heard the right honorable member for Kooyong (Mr. Menzies) the other night charge the Treasurer with thinking of a number and then doubling it. That, apparently, is what the honorable member for Adelaide has done.
I have inquired into the honorable member’s statement concerning motor cars used by Ministers on interstate journeys, and I find that it is incorrect. All the cars used on interstate trips are fitted with producer-gas units. The honorable member could have obtained that information from the transport office. During the term of office of the last Government, and until shortly before the present Government came into power, many government motor cars without producer-gas units were used in all parts of Australia.
– That was before the war.
– That is not so. A former Minister who now sits on the Opposition side frequently used a car between Canberra and Sydney, and when he was in Sydney the car was freely used for the convenience of his wife and family. The driver, while he remained in Sydney, received a travelling allowance of 12s. 6d. a day, which increased his wage to £850 for the year. Another Minister had a car in Sydney in similar circumstances; the driver was taken from his home in Canberra and was paid an allowance of 12s. 6d. a day for seven days a week for a period of approximately seven months. No Minister of the present Government has done that sort of thing. The position became so bad that the transport drivers under the control of the Department of the Interior petitioned for the institution of a roster system, so that every body would be treated fairly and the choice of drivers would not be governed by their personal appearance. Provision to this effect was incorporated in the award governing their conditions of labour. The sort of attack to which we have listened could be made only by a mountain of flesh, with the brain of an insect, who is observing austerity by taking longer steps so that he will not wear out the soles of his boots; yet, according to the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. Pollard), this samegentleman “backs up “ for four plates of porridge at the Hotel Kurrajong at breakfast. Had he taken the trouble to check up, he would have learned the facts. Those who live in glass houses should not throw stones. Members of the Opposition ought to investigate the doings of their own Ministers and members of the Advisory War Council before making such attacks on Ministers of the present Government.
– in reply - I assure the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) that I shall ascertain the position in respect of the matter that he has mentioned.
There seems to be some misunderstanding in regard to the subject referred to by the honorable member for Denison (Mr. Beck). I have a partial reply to the question that he placed on the noticepaper, but it does not deal with the matter adequately. I hope to make a full answer to him next week. The letter sent to a member of another place did not deal with precisely the same subject.
All that I have to say about the austerity campaign is that I wish it were applied to the speeches of honorable members.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The following papers were pre sented : -
National Security Act -
National Security (Capital Issues) Regulations - Order - Exemption.
National Security (Emergency Control) Regulations - Notice - Military Powers during emergency.
House adjourned at 4.43 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
An additional amount of£115,000 has been allocated to Western Australia.
r asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
s. - On the 9th September, 1942, the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear) asked me a question, without notice, and later, on the motion for the adjournment of the House, made statements concerning the operations of the Allied Works Council. The Minister for the Interior has had investigations made into the various matters brought forward by the honorable member and has furnished the following report: -
The graving dock is a job which comes entirely under the control of the Allied Works Council. It can therefore scarcely be accused of “ interfering” with its own job. The decision to take certain men away was made by the service chiefs, who instructed the Allied Works Council that a. number of men were required for curtain works which were regarded as of even higher priority than the graving dock. The service chiefs indicated that, if necessary, to secure the numbers required, men should be taken off the graving dock. Naturally, some interference with the work of the dock occurred as a result. Work was not, however, stopped in any section, and action to restore the former position as promptly as possible was taken immediately.
Regarding the statement that atax bookkeeping system was endangering government funds and that vouchers entitling wives of Civil Constructional Corps members to £6 a fortnight were being distributed to dependants of persons who were not members of the Civil Constructional Corps, the fact is that the “ voucher “ is a printed form which is sent to the wife of a. member of the Civil Constructional Corps. It is intended that she should sign the form herself, certifying that she is the person to whom, in the event of an allotment being made, the money should be addressed. The form is not an order to receive money, but simply one to enable the Allied Works Council to obtain a specimen signature of the allottee, thus protecting- Commonwealth funds. The actual payment of an allotment is made by cheque and the cheque form is quite unmistakably a cheque and nothing else. It could not be confused with a “voucher”.
Concerning the statement that men called up would not be capable of standing up to hard work under the conditions of a summer in North Australia, particular care has been taken, in sending men to Queensland, to send only those men who have regularly been engaged on work of a nature similar to that on which they will be employed when they go north. The council has not sent any men who have been called up from other occupations, and it is a fair assumption that men who, over a long period, have been engaged either as plant operators or labourers without physical ill effects becoming apparent, should be considered, at sucha critical time as the present, tobe capable of continuing to perform this work, even in the north, for a period of three months. In all cases where a man has felt that his health is such as to unfit him for work under Queensland conditions it has been open to him to appeal on medical grounds against transfer. In all cases where the man has been working close enough to Sydney to make it possible, he has been examined by the two doctors who are permanently attached to the New South Wales head office of the corps, and, if in their opinion, he has not been medically fit, then his appeal has been granted. In other cases, where the man has been stationed at a spot too remote from Sydney to make it possible for him to call at the office for medical examination, the council has accepted the certificate of a private practitioner. It is a fact that a great number of men have been exempted from transfer on medical grounds.
Regarding the accusation that men are sent away at 48 hours’ notice, this is due to urgency. Jobs cannotbe commenced quickly and at the same time men be given extended notice to work. In the majority of cases, the men have been given a full week’s notice. Where they have been working at a considerable distance from their homes, they have been allowed, when they have desired it, one week’s leave of absence, for two days of which they have received full pay. The purpose of this has been to allow them a reasonable time in which to make any domestic arrangements which might be necessary. In somecases, the very urgency of the job and difficulties associated with getting men in particular skilled categories has made it impossible to allow the full period of notice which might be considered desirable. These cases, however, are in a decided minority.
It is not correct that men called up for service in the Civil Constructional Corps have no right of appeal, and that excessive hardship is being imposed by the call-up. Long before any complaint was made the machinery had been established which permitted appeals right through to a special magistrate, and special magistrates had heard hundreds of cases in New South Wales and Victoria. Another special magistrate was later appointed for Queensland, too. Actually only50 per cent, of the men called up are found to be suitable for enrolment.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
y. - The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
t asked the Prime. Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are - 1, 2 and 3. This matter has been referred by the Government for the attention of my colleague the Minister for War Organization of industry who proposes to set up a committee representative of all interests concerned.
n asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
s asked the Minister for the Army, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Tasmania: War Industries.
n. - Yesterday, the honorable member for Darwin (Sir George
Bell) asked me the following question, without notice: -
Will the Prime Minister lay upon the table of the House the report of the committee that is inquiring into war industries as affecting Tasmania?
The report is receiving the attention of the Government. The question as to whether the contents will be made available to honorable members will be determined when the recommendations made in the report have been considered.
Public Service - Retirements.
n. - On the 11th September, the honorable member for Denison (Mr. Beck) asked the following question, without notice : -
In view of the acuteness of the man-power position, and the Government’s appeal to persons reaching the retiring age not to retire, and to others who have retired to return to work if that be possible, will the Minister representing the Postmaster-General insist that section 86 of the Commonwealth Public Service Act, which deals with the age of retirement, shall be strictly adhered to?
The Postmaster-General has supplied the following answer: -
The present policy regarding section 86 retirements has been arrived at after consideration of the general staffing situation, and of the claims of younger officers of the Service. This policy provides that officers shall be retired at the normal retiring age, and their subsequent employment (subject to fitness and willingness to be employed) confined to -
Positions in which it is customary in normal times to engage temporary assistance, or
Special positions that have arisen through the war in which their services can be profitably used, but which are not of a permanent character.
l asked the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
Will he lay on the table of each House of the Parliament a copy of the International Sugar Agreement, signed in London in May, 1937, and recently renewed by protocol for two years from the 31st August, 1942, and to which protocol the signature of the representative of the Government of Australia is a ttached ?
– The Minister for Trade and Customs has supplied the following answer : -
A copy of the 1937 agreement was tabled on 17th June, 1937. Acopy of the protocol will be tabled in both Houses at the next sittings.
l asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
Will he supply the latest information in his possession on the series of questions asked by the honorable member for Melbourne on the 29th October, 1941, concerning the number of towns in Australia with 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 or more branches of the trading banks?
– The figures will be brought up to date, and a reply to the question will be furnished as early as possible.
Mr.Rosevear asked the Minister for War Organization of Industry, upon notice -
n. - I desire to advise the honorable member -
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 18 September 1942, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1942/19420918_reps_16_172/>.